How should we referee the non-ruck? After the fun and games of last weekend’s RBS 6 Nations match at Twickenham, where Italy didn’t engage in post tackle ruck formation, we now need to think about the implications for referees of all levels this weekend.
We’ve done some of the thinking for you! Here’s RugbyReferee.net’s top 6 tips on how to referee the non-ruck
1) Know the law!
Simple eh!?! Some referees claim not to have read the whole law book (yes, we’re looking at you Nigel…) but it helps to know and understand the key bits!
- Law 15 covers what constitutes a tackle and the obligations of ball carrier, tackler and others
- Law 16 covers what constitutes a ruck, and amongst other bits, what happens when there is a ruck, and how a ruck ends successfully
- Law 10 covers foul play
In this issue, these are the main bits to get your head around. You can download the 2017 Law book here
2) Understand the implications of the law
As we saw last weekend, piecing all these bits of law together can cause confusion from many parties!
Firstly – is there a tackle? And do all participants comply with tackle law? If so, we can move on. In law, this is now open play, but still restrictions on players getting involved in that tackle zone (about 1m around the tackle)
Secondly – does a ruck form as per law?
- Yes – Happy days! Offside lines along the back foot kick in and Eddie Jones gets happier.
- Yes – then you really need to know the law about how a ruck can end successfully. Players leaving the formed ruck isn’t one way of doing that. Therefore, if you have a ruck, but one side’s players all leave, the ruck still exists and therefore offside lines continue. (see point 5!)
- Yes – But was there foul play involved? ie has Law 10 been infringed by ‘defending’ players grabbing an opponent in order to create a ruck. Law 16.2b (joining a ruck) says opponents must bind (using “whole arm in contact from hand to shoulder”) to teammate or opponent.
- No – So who can do what?
- Law 15.6g says the next player of the ball (acting scrum half) can now be tackled, but only if the new tackler comes from the right angle. That’s why, the Italian players were generally making a nuisance of themselves, rather than going for the new ball carrier
3) Get your mental pictures right
What do you expect to see in these game areas? If you’ve prepared and have a clear picture in your mind, you can then process what you actually see against that mental picture.
The law book helpfully includes pictures so you can build those mental images up.
4) Use the pre game to your advantage!
Use the time you have at your disposal when you arrive at your game, or during the warm up to see if you can identify whether a side might try this tactic (or any other). You can often tell from the way a team warms up what their plans may be. You could always ask them straight out, so you can be ready from the off.
To be fair, if you offer advice to one side before a game, consider volunteering that advice to the other team. If you’re merely asked a “yes/no” question, there’s nothing to pass on!
As you do in other areas of the game, consider what words and phrases you might use if this sort of thing happens.
What are you going to say/call when those mental pictures you’ve created happen in front of you?
Obviously, you have to make sure you’re in the right place to communicate at the breakdown. You can’t do it effectively from 30m away! And you’ll be able to see the play happen in front of you and communicate appropriately. If you’re finding you’re not getting to the breakdown quickly enough, do some appropriate fitness training. (more to come on RugbyReferee.net on that aspect soon!)
Choose your words clearly and be concise:
- Is it a tackle? Perhaps call “tackle” or “tackle only” – although you need to consider if you do it once, you may need to do it 100 more times in a match
- If you have a ruck, you need to communicate that – call “Ruck”
- If you had a ruck, and it hasn’t ended successfully as per law, you need to communicate that – call “Still a ruck!” It may not look right but it is!
- Don’t over communicate – this will differ depending on your style and the age/capability of the game you’re refereeing
Use any stoppages to answer any questions (if asked in an appropriate tone!) but keep answers to what it says in law, not what could be described as coaching!
6) Be consistent
As ever, you need to ensure that what you do is the same throughout the game, and for both sides.
We hope that advice is helpful as you start to think about your games this weekend. If you want any more hints and tips, let us know!
Disclaimer: This isn’t official advice from any particular Union or Referees Association or Society who may wish issue local advice. We merely aim to help and these opinions are ours.