World Rugby has announced 11 law trials which take effect in the northern hemisphere on August 1st.
The trials change the requirements of the tackler, the definition of a ruck, the put in process for a scrum, reverse which team is awarded a lineout if the ball is caught in the field of play while the catcher has a foot in touch, allow a lineout from a penalty that is kicked after time expires, and more.
In a change to law, World Rugby has redefined illegal (high) tackle categories and increased sanctions to deter high tackles via a law application guideline. This will apply at all levels of the game from 3 January 2017 introducing minimum on-field sanctions for reckless and accidental contact with the head, effectively lowering the acceptable height of the tackle.
USA Rugby Guidance: This has not created new “illegal actions” but rather adjusts the standard on how dangerous actions are sanctioned. It does not allow the ball carrier to manufacture penalties. “Other phases” mentioned are aimed primarily at actions such as the “gator roll”, where there is a real risk of grasping the head/neck area. Fending off is still legal at all levels (except to the face/neck area in high school).
A player is deemed to have made reckless contact during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game if in making contact, the player knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head of an opponent, but did so anyway. This sanction applies even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. This type of contact also applies to grabbing and rolling/ twisting around the head/ neck area even if the contact starts below the line of the shoulders.
Minimum sanction: Yellow card
Maximum sanction: Red card
USA Rugby Guidance: It is a deliberate action from tackler. The onus is on the tackler to ensure the tackle is safe with regards to above the shoulder and contact in the head and neck area. It will be up to the referee to differentiate the severity of the tackle and what sanction is appropriate – a good process would be to combine the level of recklessness with the outcome and affect on the tackled player.
When making contact with another player during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game, if a player makes accidental contact with an opponent’s head, either directly or where the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders, the player MAY be sanctioned. This includes situations where the ball carrier slips into the tackle.
Minimum sanction: Penalty
USA Rugby Guidance: It is an accidental action from tackler. Contact above the shoulder in the head and neck area was not due to a deliberate or reckless action from the tackler.
USA Rugby has provided the following guidance on hurdling:
We have been asked many times if this is Dangerous Play. This is not specified in Law 10.4, and the question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no because there are so many possible variations on the situation.
The short answer is that sometimes it is dangerous and other times it is not, depending on the circumstances. Each play must be judged on its own merit by the referee. Here are some factors to consider when viewing this sort of play:
- Dangerous Play is not restricted to the specific actions listed in 10.4. That is a list of many of the most common occurrences of Dangerous Play, but the fact that an action isn’t listed does not mean the referee cannot penalize for something deemed dangerous when seen in a game. Here are some actions that aren’t listed in 10.4, but which definitely could be called dangerous:
- biting an opponent
- spitting on an opponent
- punching a teammate
- There is general agreement that if the defender is directly in front of the ball carrier and standing in a normal tackling position, and the ball carrier goes over the defender like clearing the high hurdles, this is dangerous. Here is an example that should be penalized. There are two reasons:
- It is dangerous to the opponent because that action brings boots into close proximity of a players face/head.
- It is dangerous to the ball carrier because if the defender manages to make contact while attempting to tackle, the ball carrier could get flipped and land on his head/neck.
- Also remember that there are many examples that could be called “hurdling” that are just fine and we see them in almost every game:
- Jumping over a player who is lying on the ground
- Jumping to avoid the outstretched arms of a diving tackle attempt from the side.
In conclusion, if it is hurdling a standing (or crouched) defender directly in front of the ball carrier, it is dangerous. If it is something from paragraph three it is most likely fine. For the middle range, the referee needs to judge based on what is presented at the moment.