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Rugby Laws Explained – Law 14 “The Tackle”

Referee Andrew Brace 2020 Guinness Six Nations Championship Round 2, France vs Italy

Over the coming weeks the IRFU’s High Performance Referees will be explaining the laws of the game.  They will look at the letter of the law and seek to put it in context so that players and supporters alike can get an insight into the laws that guide on-field decisions and the sanctions for getting on the wrong side of the whistle.

This week Andrew Brace explores the fundamentals of Law 14 “The Tackle”.  According to the laws of the game:

 “A tackle can take place anywhere in the field of play. The actions of players involved in the tackle must ensure a fair contest and allow the ball to be available for play immediately.”



There are three requirements for a tackle to occur (Law 14.1-3)

1. For a tackle to occur, the ball-carrier is held and brought to ground by one or more opponents.

2. Being brought to ground means that the ball-carrier is lying, sitting or has at least one knee on the ground or on another player who is on the ground.

3. Being held means that a tackler must continue holding the ball-carrier until the ball-carrier is on the ground.

Law 14.4 defines all participants in a tackle

Players in a tackle are: (a) Tackled player (b) Tacklers and (c) Others.

Others are defined as

(i) Player(s) who hold the ball-carrier during a tackle but do not go to ground

(ii) Player(s) who arrive to contest possession in the tackle and

(iii) Player(s) who are already on the ground.

The responsibilities of each player involved in a tackle are outlined in Law 14.5

Tacklers must

(a) immediately release the ball and the ball-carrier after both players to go ground

(b) immediately move away from the tackled player and from the ball or get up

(c) be on their fee before attempting to play the ball

(d) allow the tackled player to release or play the ball

(e) allow the tackled player to move away from the ball

SANCTION: PENALTY for the opposition team 

Law 14.5.3 outlines the responsibilities of tackled players

(a) make the ball available so that play can continue by releasing, passing or pushing the ball in any direction except forward.  They may place the ball in any direction.

(b) move away from the ball or get up

(c) ensure that they do no lie on, over or near the ball to prevent opposition players from gaining possession to it.

SANCTION: PENALTY for the opposition team 

The role of other players involved in a tackle is covered in Law 15.5.4

(a) remain on their feet and release the ball can the ball-carrier immediately

(b) remain on their feet when they play the ball

(c) arrive at the tackle from the direction of their own goal line before playing the ball

(d) not play the ball or attempt to tackle an opponent while on the ground near the tackle

SANCTION: PENALTY for the opposition team