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Clarification 2015 - 7

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Ruling 7-2015
Union / HP Ref Manager IRFU
Law Reference 15,16,22
Date 9 September 2015
We are concerned at the increasing practice of an opponent kicking the ball out of the hands of a player who has picked up the ball.

This is happening mainly when the ball is won at the breakdown/tackle/ruck and has been picked up by a player. An opponent then kicks the ball from that player’s hands. (This opponent may have legally come through the breakdown, or may still be in the breakdown.)

We do not consider that this action is either:

(i) A fair contest for the ball.
(ii) Can be considered a legal means of dis-possessing a player.

It is also foreseeable that injuries will occur. It presents difficulties in interpretation and consistency for the referee:
If contact is made with the hands of the player it can be considered foul play - this is difficult to see and to decide.
If the ball is dropped, referees are ruling a knock-on, whereas the player in possession has neither lost possession of the ball, nor has he knocked it forward.

We can find some guidance in the following Laws (22 & 16) which deal with kicking the ball from a player’s possession in the field of play who is reaching out to score, albeit a tackled player:

Law 22
(e) Tackled near the goal-line. If a player is tackled near to the opponents’ goal line so that this player may immediately reach out and ground the ball on or over the goal-line, a try is scored.

(f) In this situation, defending players who are on their feet may legally prevent the try by pulling the ball from the tackled player’s hands or arms, but must not kick the ball.

Law 15.6 (j) – This Law is very similar to 22(f) above.

We consider that it is logical for the rationale in Law to cover the scenario which we have outlined above in relation to the breakdown, and that the Law intends that it is not legal to kick the ball from the hands of a player in possession in any circumstances.

Clarification in Law by the Designated Members of the Rugby Committee

The designated members agree that it is illegal to kick the ball from the hands of a player in possession in any circumstances. An example of this action can be seen below. The sanction for this action should be a penalty against the offending team.