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Mon 22 Oct 2007 | 12:00

Law Discussion - final countdown

Law Discussion - final countdown
Mon 22 Oct 2007 | 12:00

Law Discussion - final countdown


After 48 matches we come to the last Law Discussion of the 2007 Rugby World Cup. We have some incidents to talk about from the 3rd-place match and from the final. And then we can all go on holiday.

It has been fun with lots of thrilling rugby and a thoroughly decent group of players. From a law point of view, lots to talk about.

Can we say it for the last time at this World Cup – that the purpose of these discussions is to discuss the laws in action for our information and development, not to find fault with the top 12 referees in the world?

What we talk about needs to be discussable. For example, if a pass was forward and not blown there is little to discuss once you have said that it is forward, unless you can find other aspects of the incident to discuss, such as the referee’s positioning.

We shall include the TMO decision from the final, because that was the one decision which evoked controversy over this last weekend.

There are clips which may be of interest on www.sareferees.co.za

1. Off the upright

The Pumas, who are leading 10-3, attack from a penalty against France. They maul from a line-out and then let the ball back to Agustin Pichot who passes to flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez. Elegant Hernandez drops at goal. The ball hits the upright and bounces back into the field of play where David Skrela is under the dropping ball. Skrela catches it and is immediately tackled by Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe of Argentina as Manuel Contepomi closes in on him. Omar Hasan is in close attention. France do not protect the ball well and Puma hooker Alberto Vernet Basualdo is able to pick up and drive at the line, the outcome a try for Hasan near the posts.

Nobody spoke about the position of some of the important players in the action – Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Alberto Vernet Basualdo, Omar Hasan and possibly Felipe Contepomi.

When Hernandez drops for goal, Fernandez Lobbe, Basualdo and Hasan are certainly in front of him – about five or six metres in front of him and to the left of Skrela from Hernandez’s viewpoint.

This went unremarked but the relevant law may well be worth quoting in full.


(a) When a team-mate of an off-side player has kicked ahead, the offside player is considered to be taking part in the game if the player is in front of an imaginary line across the field which is 10 metres from the opponent waiting to play the ball, or from where the ball lands or may land. The off-side player must immediately move behind the imaginary 10 metre line. While moving away, the player must not obstruct an opponent.

(b) While moving away, the offside player cannot be put onside by any action of the opposing team. However, before the player has moved the full 10 metres, the player can be put onside by any onside team-mate who runs in front of the player.

(c) When a player who is off-side under the 10-metre law charges an opponent waiting to catch the ball, the referee blows the whistle at once and the offside player is penalised. Delay may prove dangerous to the opponent.

(d) When a player who is offside under the 10-metre law plays the ball which has been mis-fielded by an opponent, the offside player is penalised.

(e) The 10-metre law is not altered by the fact that the ball has hit a goal post or a cross bar. What matters is where the ball lands. An offside player must not be in front of the imaginary 10 metre line across the field.

(f) The 10-metre law does not apply when a player kicks the ball, and an opponent charges down the kick, and a team-mate of the kicker who was in front of the imaginary 10 metre line across the field then plays the ball. The opponent was not ‘waiting to play the ball’ and the team-mate is onside.

Penalty: When a player is penalised for being offside in general play, the opposing team chooses either a penalty kick at the place of infringement or a scrum at the place where the offending team last played the ball. If it was last played in that team’s in-goal, the scrum is formed 5 metres from the goal-line in line with where it was played.

(g) If more than one player is off-side and moving forward after a team-mate has kicked ahead, the place of infringement is the position of the offside player closest to an opponent waiting for the ball, or closest to where the ball lands.


(a) The offside player must retire behind the imaginary 10 metre line across the field, otherwise the player is liable to be penalised.

(b) While retiring, the player can be put on-side before moving behind the imaginary 10-metre line by any of the three actions of the player’s team listed above in Section 2. However, the player cannot be put onside by any action of the opposing team.

Certainly Fernandez Lobbe, Basualdo, Hasan, Pichot and several others are in front of Hernandez. They were also within 10 metres of Skrela. That the ball bounced back off the upright did not change the matter, as (e) says.

Manuel Contepomi may well have come from behind Hernandez who also advanced but none of the Argentinians was retiring as Manuel Contepomi and Hernandez moved forward. Because they were not retiring, Manuel Contepomi and Hernandez could not put them onside.

It would seem that there was a case of multiple offside.

Who would be penalised?

Fernandez Lobbe for being the player closest to Skrela.

2. Quick throw

From a scrum on the French left, Frederic Michalak kicks towards the touch-line on his right and deep into Argentinian territory. Aurelien Rougerie on France’s right wing chases as Horacio Agulla and Ignacio Corleto of Argentina scramble for the ball. They manage to scramble it into touch, the ball going backwards in touch.

Rougerie picks up the ball and throws in quickly to David Marty who runs over for a try, but the referee blows his whistle and calls him back.

The crowd boo.

Every booer was wrong.

Rougerie had thrown in the ball closer to the Argentinian goal-line than where the ball had gone out. He could have thrown in further from the goal-line but not closer to it.


(a) A player may take a quick throw-in without waiting for a line-out to form.

(b) For a quick throw-in, the player may be anywhere outside the field of play between the place where the ball went into touch and the player’s goal-line.

(d) For a quick throw-in, the player must use the ball that went into touch. If, after it went to touch and was made dead, another ball is used, or if another person has touched the ball apart from the player throwing it in, then the quick throw-in is disallowed. The same team throws in at the line-out.

(e) At a quick throw-in, if the player does not throw the ball in straight so that it travels at least 5 metres along the line-of-touch before it touches the ground or another player, or if the player steps into the field-of-play when the ball is thrown, then the quick throw-in is disallowed. The opposing team chooses to throw in at either a line-out where the quick throw-in was attempted, or a scrum on the 15-metre line at that place. If they too throw in the ball incorrectly at the line-out, a scrum is formed on the 15-metre line. The team that first threw in the ball throws in the ball at the scrum.

The decision about the correct place for the throw-in is the referee’s, not the touch judge’s.

Law 6.B.5 (e) It is for the referee, and not the touch judge, to decide whether or not the ball was thrown in from the correct place.

3. Dropping the ball

France batter at the Argentinian line. Yannick Nyanga charges on the left side of the tackle/ruck. He is close to the line when he drops the ball.

Does dropping the ball nullify any hope of scoring?

No. Not dropping in itself.

If the ball is dropped forward, it is a knock-on and a try could then not be scored.

But if it is dropped straight down or backwards, it is still possible to score a try.

4. Pietersen swamped

Jonny Wilkinson kicks a high ball down towards the touch-line on his left. The ball drops just outside South Africa’s 22 where JP Pietersen of South Africa catches the ball. Immediately Mike Catt grabs him and Cueto and Simon Shaw of England are soon there. Percy Montgomery of South Africa joins in and so do Danie Rossouw of South Africa, Lewis Moody of England and John Smit of South Africa. They are all on their feet huddled together. It is a maul. The maul falls to ground and the referee decides that the heap of players have rendered the ball unplayable.

He awards the scrum to South Africa.


Law 17.6 (h) Scrum after a maul when catcher is held. If a player catches the ball direct from an opponent’s kick, except from a kick-off or a drop-out, and the player is immediately held by an opponent, a maul may form. Then if the maul remains stationary, stops moving forward for longer than 5 seconds, or if the ball becomes unplayable, and a scrum is ordered, the team of the ball catcher throws in the ball.

‘Direct from an opponent’s kick’ means the ball did not touch another player or the ground before the player caught it.

If a maul moves into the player’s in-goal, where the ball is touched down or becomes unplayable, a 5m scrum is formed. The attacking team throws in the ball.

5. Out of the way, boy

Andy Gomarsall kicks ahead. Toby Flood of England gives chase. The ball bounces into the South African in-goal and is heading for the dead-ball line. Percy Montgomery of South Africa is running after the ball. Just as the ball reaches the dead-ball line Flood uses two hands to shove Montgomery in the back and the fullback is so forced over the hoardings that he bangs into a television camera, hurting himself temporarily.

The referee announces: “I am not going to penalise him.”

What Flood did was an offence.

Law 10.4 (f) Playing an opponent without the ball. Except in a scrum, ruck or maul, a player must not hold, or push, or charge into, or obstruct an opponent not carrying the ball.
Penalty: Penalty Kick

Why not penalise?

Presumably because the shove had no effect on the game because the ball was going dead regardless of what Flood did. But it certainly produced a dangerous situation. It had an effect on Montgomery.

Where would the penalty have been if Flood had been penalised?

If the ball had not reached the dead-ball line when Flood shoved Montgomery, the place of the penalty would have been five metres from the South African goal-line.


All infringements in the in-goal are treated as if they had taken place in the field-of-play. A knock-on or a throw-forward in the in-goal results in a 5-metre scrum, opposite the place of infringement.

Penalty: For an infringement, the mark for a penalty kick or free kick cannot be in the in-goal. When a penalty kick or free kick is awarded for an infringement in the In-goal, the mark for the kick is in the field-of-play, 5 metres from the goal-line, opposite the place of infringement.

If Flood had shoved Montgomery after the ball had crossed the dead-ball line, which seemed to be the case here, the penalty would have been anywhere along the South African 22.

Law 22.16 (c) Any other foul play. When a player commits any other foul play in the in-goal while the ball is out of play, the penalty kick is awarded at the place where the game would otherwise have re-started.
Penalty: Penalty Kick.

Because this incident happened in in-goal the referee could have consulted the TMO about the nature of the action and the place where it happened.

6. Naughty Burger

An awkward bouncing ball comes back to Matthew Tait on the half-way line as the Springbok defence closes in. Suddenly Tait waggles, steps and bursts past Francois Steyn, Butch James and Jaque Fourie. He races down the field, sweeping past Percy Montgomery on the outside and then cutting back inside Bryan Habana till Victor Matfield fells him a couple of metres from the Springbok line.

First on the scene is Schalk Burger who slides in on the ball from the side before going round the back. Behind is JP Pietersen who slips and starts to get up.

In comes Mike Catt, driving in on Burger and Jason Robinson and Simon Shaw also arrive while the referee is showing that he is playing advantage.

While the referee is waiting for the TMO’s decision on Cueto’s diving effort, he calls John Smit, the Springbok captain over, and says to him: “I’m going back to the penalty. That number six was very naughty coming in the side. He won’t do that again.”

When the TMO advises that Cueto was in touch, the referee goes back to the penalty five metres from the South African line. Mike Catt comes to talk to him. The conversation is inaudible but may well have been about the possibility of a penalty try.

There is only one reason to award a penalty try – if an opponent’s infringement stopped the probable scoring of a try. It is a judgement call for the referee.

Burger’s action was an infringement but did it prevent the probable scoring of a try? Tait was not going to score has he had been tackled. He did not pass back to Catt and was not in the action of passing to Catt because Burger had infringed. What Tait’s next move would have been is anybody’s guess.

If Catt could have picked up the ball, he could possibly have scored. Probably? Tough one to answer that.

7. Toeing the line

On advantage Andy Gomarsall passes left to Jonny Wilkinson who has Jaque Fourie charging at him. Wilkinson flicks the ball on to Mark Cueto who charges for the line as Danie Rossouw of South Africa covers desperately. As Rossouw plunges he gets a hand to the upper part of Cueto’s body. Cueto plunges over the line.

The referee refers the matter to the television match official who spends three minutes examining the evidence before advising the referee that Cueto’s foot was in touch before he grounded the ball.

The view from behind shows Cueto plunging down well in from the cornerpost but his left toe slides on the touch-line before lifting up. When it is up in the air he grounds the ball.

The referee goes back to the penalty against Schalk Burger for coming in at the side.

This was the controversial one. Why it was controversial is not immediately obvious, unless it was controversy born of disappointment.

Cueto’s foot was in the air when he grounded the ball, but he had already put his left toe on the touch-line while he had the ball in his possession.

Law 19 DEFINITION The ball is in touch when a player is carrying it and the ball-carrier (or the ball) touches the touch-line or the ground beyond the touch-line.

Cueto was carrying the ball. He touched the touch-line. The ball was in touch.

PV: 9
Law Discussion - Final Countdown | Rugby365