Law 3. Team


1. Each team has no more than 15 players in the playing area during play.

2. A match organiser may authorise matches to be played with fewer than 15 players in each team.

3. A team may make an objection to the referee about the number of players in their opponents’ team. If a team has too many players, the referee orders the captain of that team to reduce the number appropriately. The score at the time of the objection remains unaltered.
Sanction: Penalty.

4. For international matches, a union may nominate up to eight replacements.

5. For other matches, the match organiser decides how many replacements may be nominated, up to a maximum of eight.

6. Replacements are made only when the ball is dead and only with the permission of the referee.

7. If a player re-joins or a replacement joins the match without the referee’s permission and the referee believes the player did so to gain an advantage, the player is guilty of misconduct.
Sanction: Penalty.

8. The table indicates the minimum number of front-row players by squad size and the minimum replacement obligations. A match organiser may, having taken player welfare into account, amend the minimum number of front-row players in the squad and the minimum replacement obligations at defined levels of the game.

Squad size Minimum number of front row players in the squad Must be able to replace at the first time of asking
15 or fewer 3 -
16,17 or 18 4 Either a prop or a hooker
19,20, 21 or 22 5 Both a prop and a hooker
23 6 Lose-head prop, tight-head prop and hooker

​​​9. Where the match organiser has determined squad sizes of 23 and a team is able to nominate only two front-row replacements, then that team may nominate only 22 players in their squad.

10. Prior to the match, each team must advise the appropriate match official of their frontrow players and possible front-row replacements and which position(s) in the front row they can play. Only these players may play in the front row when the scrum is contested and only in their designated position(s).

11. A replacement front-row player may start the match in another position.

12. It is a team’s responsibility to ensure that all front-row players and front-row replacements are suitably trained and experienced.

Uncontested Scrums

13. Scrums will become uncontested if either team cannot field a suitably trained front rowor if the referee so orders.

14. A match organiser may stipulate the conditions under which a game may start with uncontested scrums.

15. Uncontested scrums as a result of a sending off, temporary suspension or injury must be played with eight players per side.

16. When a front-row player leaves the playing area, whether through injury or temporary or permanent suspension, the referee enquires at that time whether the team can continue with contested scrums. If the referee is informed that the team will not be able to contest the scrum, then the referee orders uncontested scrums. If the player returns or another front-row player comes on, then contested scrums may resume.

17. In a squad of 23 players or at the discretion of the match organiser, a player whose departure has caused the referee to order uncontested scrums cannot be replaced.

18. Only when no replacement front-row player is available is any other player permitted to play in the front row.

19. If a front-row player is temporarily suspended, and the team cannot continue with contested scrums with players already on the field, then the team nominates another player to leave the playing area to enable an available front-row player to come on. The nominated player may not return until the period of suspension ends, or to act as a replacement.

20. If a front-row player is sent off, and the team cannot continue with contested scrums with players already on the field, then the team nominates another player to leave the playing area to enable an available front-row player to come on. The nominated player may act as a replacement.

Permanent replacement

21. A player may be replaced if injured. An injured player may not return once replaced.

22. A player is deemed to be injured if :
a. At national representative level, it is the opinion of a doctor that it would be inadvisable for the player to continue.

b. In other matches, where a match organiser has given explicit permission, it is the opinion of a medically trained person that it would be inadvisable for the player to continue. If none is present, that player may be replaced if the referee agrees.

c. The referee decides (with or without medical advice) that it would be inadvisable for the player to continue. The referee orders that player to leave the playing area.

23. The referee may also order an injured player to leave the playing area to be medically examined.

Permanent replacement - recognise and remove

24. If, at any point during a match, a player is concussed or has suspected concussion, that player must be immediately and permanently removed from the playing area. This process is known as “Recognise and Remove”.

Temporary replacement - blood injury

25. When a player has a blood injury, that player leaves the field of play and may be temporarily replaced. The injured player returns to play as soon as the bleeding has been controlled and/or covered. If the player is not available to return to the field of play within 15 minutes (actual time) of leaving the playing area, the replacement becomes permanent.

26. In international matches, the match-day doctor decides whether an injury is a blood injury necessitating a temporary replacement. In matches which have been approved in advance by World Rugby for use of the HIA process, the game cannot restart until the player with the blood injury has been temporarily replaced.

Temporary replacement - Head injury assesment (HIA)

27. In matches which have been approved in advance by World Rugby for use of the HIA process, a player who requires an HIA:

a. Leaves the field of play; and

b. Is temporarily replaced (even if all the replacements have been used). The game cannot restart until the player who requires an HIA has been temporarily replaced. If the player is not available to return to the field of play after 12 minutes (actual time) of leaving the playing area, the replacement becomes permanent.

Temporary replacement - All

28. A temporary replacement can be temporarily replaced (even if all replacements have been used).

29. If a temporary replacement is injured, that player may also be replaced.

30. If a temporary replacement is sent off, the originally replaced player is not permitted to return to the playing area, except to comply Law 3.19 or 3.20, and only if the player has been medically cleared to do so and does so within the required time of leaving the field of play.

31. If the temporary replacement is temporarily suspended, the replaced player is not permitted to return to the field of play until after the period of suspension, except to comply with Law 3.19 or 3.20, and only if the player has been medically cleared to do so and does so within the required time of leaving the field of play.

32. If the time allowed for a temporary replacement elapses during half-time, the replacement shall become permanent unless the replaced player returns to the field of play immediately at the start of the second half.

Tactical replacemnet joining the match

33. Tactically replaced players may return to play only when replacing :

a. An injured front-row player.

b. A player with a blood injury.

c. A player with a head injury.

d. A player who has just been injured as a result of foul play (as verified by the match officials).

e. The nominated player described in Law 3.19 or 3.20.

Rolling replacements

34. A match organiser may implement rolling tactical replacements at defined levels of the game within its jurisdiction. The number of interchanges must not exceed 12. The administration and rules relating to rolling replacements are the responsibility of the match organiser.