Law question: Can a ball carrier jump into a tackle?

Law question - Can a ball carrier jump into a tackle?

Here at, we want to start to answer some of the reader questions we get sent through various means. During the week we had this email sent to us by new referee Stuart in Ireland. He writes:

“I was re-watching the second Lions test the other day when the New Zealand replacement prop, Charlie Faumuina was penalised at the end of the match for tackling Kyle Sinkler. I think he was penalised for tackling in the air, but it seemed Sinkler jumped into it. Can a ball carrier jump into a tackle? The All Blacks captain seemed to suggest to the referee that perhaps he could (and should!).  What do you think?”


Great question Stuart, we’d forgotten that one in all the fun that was to follow! Faumuina was indeed penalised for that.  The law in question is pretty clear under law 10.4e. It states a “player must not tackle an opponent whose feet are off the ground.”  Hard to argue that is what happened, albeit with mitigating factors, hence why this was only a penalty and no further sanction.

But as to Kieran Read’s point, no, a player can’t jump into a tackle.  That in itself would be dangerous play. If you think about what could happen, it is clearly a dangerous act. For a law reference, it would be covered by law 10.4e where it states “playing a player without the ball is dangerous play” or law 10.4m Acts contrary to good sportsmanship. If you jumped into a potential tackler, you’d probably make contact with the knee which would be covered by “punching or striking an opponent” (10.4a).

So two things to consider here – one, jumping into a tackle would be dangerous, and therefore not allowed. But secondly what happened here wasn’t, in our opinion, a player jumping into a tackle.  Sinkler was jumping to collect a poor pass which was too high for him, meaning he had to leap to collect the ball.

We found the below clip of retired Wales speed-demon Shane Williams, here playing for the Ospreys some years ago. In trying to avoid the last defender, he clearly jumps into the tackler. Fortunately, he misses but you can see the possibilities. That clip is shown here, followed by the Sinkler/Faumuina incident. We hope you see the difference between the two. It’s all about the pictures you take away from this so you ever see it in a game you’re refereeing, it hopefully matches one of these two incidents and you’ll know what options you have.



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