Law 6. Match officials


Every match is under the control of match officials who consist of the referee and two touch judges or assistant referees. Additional persons, as authorised by the match organisers may include the reserve referee and/or reserve assistant referee, the television match official, the time-keeper, the match doctor, the team doctors, the non-playing members of the teams and the ball persons.

Assistant referees and touch judges are responsible for signalling touch, touch in-goal and the success or otherwise of kicks at goal. In addition, assistant referees provide assistance as the referee directs, including the reporting of foul play.

Appointment of the referee

1. The referee is appointed by the match organiser. If no referee has been appointed, the two teams agree upon a referee. If they cannot agree, the home team appoints a referee.

2. If the referee is unable to complete the match, the referee’s replacement is appointed according to the instructions of the match organiser. If the match organiser has given no instructions, the referee appoints a replacement. If the referee cannot do so, the home team appoints a replacement.

Duties of the referee before the match

3. The referee organises the toss. One of the captains tosses a coin and the other captain calls. The winner of the toss decides whether to kick off or to choose an end. If the winner of the toss decides to choose an end, the opponents must kick off and vice versa.

4. The match officials must inspect the players’ clothing and studs for conformity to Law 4.

Duties of the referee during the match

5. Within the playing enclosure:
a. The referee is the sole judge of fact and of law during a match. The referee must apply the laws of the game fairly in every match.
b. The referee keeps the time. However, the match organiser may appoint a timekeeper who will signify the end of each half.
c. The referee keeps the score.

6. The referee permits access to the playing area for players and replacements, when it is safe to do so.

7. The referee gives permission for players to leave the playing area.

The whistle

8. The referee carries a whistle and blows it:
a. To indicate the beginning and the end of each half of the match.
b. To stop play. The referee has the power to stop play at any time.
c. To indicate a score or a touch down.
d. To caution or send off an offender and a second time when the penalty or penalty try is awarded.
e. When the ball becomes dead, other than after a failed conversion kick.
f. When the ball becomes unplayable.
g. When a penalty, free-kick or scrum is awarded.
h. When it would be dangerous to let play continue or when it is suspected that a player is seriously injured.

The ball becomes dead

9. The referee will deem the ball to be dead when:
a. The ball is in touch or touch in-goal.
b. The ball is grounded in in-goal.
c. A conversion has been attempted.
d. A try, penalty or dropped goal has been scored.
e. The ball or ball-carrier touches the dead-ball line or anything beyond it.
f. The ball hits anything above the playing area.

The ball or ball-carrier touches the referee or non-player

10. If the ball or the ball-carrier touches the referee or other non-player and neither team gains an advantage, play continues. If either team gains an advantage in the field of play, a scrum is awarded to the team that last played the ball.

11. If the ball-carrier touches the referee or other non-player in in-goal and either team gains an advantage:
a. If the ball is in possession of an attacking player, the referee awards a try where the contact took place.
b. If the ball is in possession of a defending player, the referee awards a touch down where the contact took place.

12. If the ball is touched by the referee or other non-player in in-goal, the referee judges what would have happened next and awards a try or a touch down at the place where the contact took place.

Interaction between the referee and assistant referees / touchjudges

13. The referee may consult with assistant referees about matters relating to their duties, the law relating to foul play and timekeeping, and may request assistance related to other aspects of the referee’s duties.

14. The referee may alter a decision after a touch judge or an assistant referee has raised the flag to signal touch, touch-in-goal or an assistant referee has signalled foul play.

Television match official (TMO) / Global law trial

15. A match organiser may appoint a television match official (TMO), who uses technological devices to clarify situations relating to:
a. The grounding of the ball in in-goal.
b. Touch or touch-in-goal in the act of grounding the ball or the ball being made dead.
c. Where there is doubt as to whether a kick at goal has been successful.
d. Where match officials believe an infringement may have occurred in the playing area leading to a try or preventing a try.
e. Foul play, including sanctions.

16. Any of the match officials, including the TMO, may recommend a review by the TMO. The reviews will take place in accordance with the TMO protocol which is available at

Duties of the referee after the match

17. The referee communicates the score to the teams and to the match organiser.

18. If a player was sent off, the referee gives the match organiser a written report on the foul play infringement as soon as possible.

Appointing and controlling assistant referees and touchjudges

19. There are two assistant referees or two touch judges for every match. Unless they have been appointed by or under the authority of the match organiser, each team provides a touch judge.

20. The match organiser may nominate a person to act as a replacement for the assistant referees or touch judges. This person is called the reserve touch judge or reserve assistant referee and is situated in the perimeter area.

21. The referee has control over the assistant referees or touch judges. The referee may tell them what their duties are and may overrule their decisions. If a touch judge is unsatisfactory, the referee may ask that the touch judge be replaced. If the referee believes a touch judge is guilty of misconduct, the referee has the power to send the touch judge off and make a report to the match organiser.

During the match

22. There is one assistant referee or touch judge on each side of the ground. The assistant referee or touch judge remains in touch except when judging a kick at goal. When judging a kick at goal they stand in in-goal, behind the goal posts.

23. An assistant referee may enter the playing area to report foul play. This may be done only at the next stoppage in play and when the referee allows.


24. Each assistant referee or touch judge carries a flag or something similar with which to signal decisions.

25. Signalling the result of kicks at goal:
One assistant referee or touch judge stands at or behind each goal post. If the ball goes over the crossbar and between the posts, they raise the flags to indicate a goal.

26. Signalling touch:
a. When the ball or the ball-carrier has gone into touch or touch-in-goal, the assistant referee or touch judge holds up the flag.
b. The assistant referee or touch judge stands at the place of the throw and points to the team entitled to throw in.
c. When the ball is thrown in, the assistant referee or touch judge lowers the flag, with the following exceptions:

i. When the player throwing in puts any part of either foot in the field of play.
ii. When the team not entitled to throw in has done so.
iii. When, at a quick throw, the ball that went into touch is replaced by another ball or, after it went into touch, it was touched by anyone except the ballcarrier who took it into touch or the player who takes the throw.

d. It is for the referee, and not the assistant referee or touch judge, to decide whether the ball was thrown in from the correct place.

27. Signalling foul play:
a. A match organiser may give authority to the assistant referee to signal for foul play.
b. An assistant referee signals that foul play or misconduct has been seen by holding the flag horizontally and pointing infield at right angles to the touchline.
c. If an assistant referee signals foul play, the assistant referee stays in touch and continues to carry out all the other duties until the next stoppage in play.
d. At the invitation of the referee the assistant referee may then enter the playing area to report the offence to the referee. The referee will then take appropriate action.
e. If an assistant referee’s verbal report to the referee leads to a player being sent off, the assistant referee submits a written report about the incident to the referee as soon as possible after the match and the referee provides it to the match organiser.

Additional persons

28. Appropriately trained and accredited first-aid or immediate (pitch-side) care persons may enter the playing area to attend to injured players at any time it is safe to do so.

29. The following may enter the playing area without the referee’s permission, provided they do not interfere with play or make any comments to the match officials:
a. Water-carriers during a stoppage in play for an injury to a player or when a try has been scored.
b. A person carrying a kicking tee after a team has indicated they intend to kick at goal or a try has been scored.
c. The coaches attending to their teams at half-time.

30. The management of replacements may be delegated to sideline managers appointed by the match organiser. Information relating to sideline management can be found at: