The International Rugby Board (IRB) has confirmed that, following agreement at their annual Council meeting in May, a Laws protocol letter was sent to all member Unions stating that match officials at all levels of the game must referee the Tackle (Law 15) and Ruck (Law 16) in accordance with the written Laws.
The correspondence also addressed new protocols in other areas of Law and was accompanied with a DVD that further confirmed the requirements of the IRB Council.
All Unions were asked to ensure that the protocols were brought to the attention of national coaches, referee managers and IRB panel referees. The protocols apply to all international matches from June 1 of this year.
Law 15 – Tackle
It has become evident that players are going to ground over or on ball carriers which has become known as sealing off. On some occasions they remain in that position and fail to move away contravening Law.
Furthermore players are going to ground or on top of players after a tackle thereby ensuring that the opposition cannot contest possession. Such actions are in breech of Laws 15.6 (g), 15.7 (c) and 15.7 (d).
Referees are requested to be more vigilant in this area of the game and to ensure that both teams are treated equally at the breakdown.
Law 16 – Ruck
It has become common practice for players to move the ball from rucks using their hands and to pick the ball up in a ruck to form a maul. It is also evident that players of the ball carrying team are being allowed to handle the ball in the ruck when defenders are being told to leave the ball alone.
Law 16.4 (d) is to be refereed at all times and applied to both the attacking and defending teams.
Law 20 – Scrum Throw-In
The IRB Laws Project Group (LPG) Scrum Working Party confirmed to Council the continual non-compliance of scrum halves to feed the ball into the centre of the tunnel. Such action is in breech of Law 20.6 (d).
Council endorsed a protocol whereby from June 1, 2008 onwards at the awarding of each scrum and prior to having the front rows go through the engagement procedure the referee is to remind the scrum half of his obligations and then ensure that he is positioned in the middle and standing square to the scrum prior to the feed.
Law 4 – Players’ Clothing
The Law in relation to inspection of players’ clothing is covered in Law 4.5 (a), (b) and (c). Regulation 12 governs what is and what is not allowed to be worn by players.
Council endorsed the following protocol:
For all internationals from June 1, 2008 onwards the practice of checking players clothing in the dressing rooms at the time of the stud check will continue.
Furthermore the two assistant referees will then carry out another inspection of players clothing as the team assembles in the tunnel prior to going onto the field.
Any subsequent breech of Regulation 12 once the match commences will be dealt with under Law 4.5 (c) and the offending player will be ordered from the field.