11 Tackle & Play-the-Ball
Tackle player 1. A player in possession may be tackled by an in possession opposing player or players. It is illegal to tackle or obstruct a player who is not in possession.
When tackled: 2. A player in possession is tackled:
Grounded (a) when he is held by one or more opposing players and the ball or the hand or arm holding the ball comes into contact with the ground.
Upright (b) when he is held by one or more opposing players in such a manner that he can make no further progress and cannot part with the ball.
Succumbing (c) when, being held by an opponent, the tackled player makes it evident that he has succumbed to the tackle and wishes to be released in order to play the ball.
Hand on player (d) when he is lying on the ground and an opponent already grounded places a hand on him.
No moving of tackled player 3. Once a player in possession has been tackled it is illegal for any player to move or try to move him from the point where the tackle is effected.
Voluntary tackle 4. A player in possession shall not deliberately and unnecessarily allow himself to be tackled by voluntarily falling to the ground when not held by an opponent. If a player drops on a loose ball he shall not remain on the ground waiting to be tackled if he has time to regain his feet and continue play.
Sliding tackle 5. If a tackled player, because of his momentum slides along the ground, the tackle is deemed to have been effected where his slide ends. (See Section 6, 3(c).)
Verbal instructions to resolve doubt 6. If any doubt arises as to a tackle, the Referee should give a verbal instruction to “play on” or shout “held” as the case may be.
Sixth tackle 7. (a) A team in possession of the ball shall be allowed five successive play-the-balls. A handover shall occur AFTER the fifth tackle in the following circumstances.
i. The team is tackled a sixth time.
ii. The team in possession commits an accidental breach for which a scrum would normally be set.
iii. A player is held up in the opponent’s in-goal.
iv. The ball is kicked into touch on the full. The handover will occur either at the point of the sixth tackle or where the scrum would normally be set - but, in the latter case, not closer than twenty metres from touch. The play-the-ball for this purpose shall not be counted for the purposes of the tackle count and shall operate as provided for in Law 10 of this Section.
Accidental breach “Zero tackle” 7. (b) Where an accidental breach occurs (knock-on, forward pass) and possession changes hands, the following tackle will be a zero tackle, notwithstanding that the team gaining possession may have gained a territorial advantage.
Losing possession – intentionally – accidentally 8. A tackled player shall not intentionally part with the ball other than by bringing it into play in the prescribed manner. If, after being tackled, he accidentally loses possession, a scrum shall be formed except after the fifth play-the-ball.
“Stealing” from tackled player 9. Once a tackle has been completed, no player shall take or attempt to take the ball from the tackled player.
10. The play-the-ball shall operate as follows.
Release tackled player immediately (a) The tackled player shall be immediately released and shall not be touched until the ball is in play.
Regain feet (b) The tackled player shall without delay regain his feet where he was tackled, lift the ball clear of the ground, face his opponent’s goal line and drop or place the ball on the ground in front of his foremost foot.
Player marking (c) One opponent may take up the position immediately opposite the tackled player.
(d) The tackled player may not play the ball before the players effecting the tackle have had time to clear the ruck.
Play with foot (e) When the ball touches the ground it must be heeled (i.e. backwards) by the tackled player. The ball must not be kicked or heeled by the player marking him. The ball is in play when it has been played backward.
Acting halfback (f) A player of each team, to be known as the acting halfback, may stand immediately and directly behind his own player taking part in the play-theball and must remain in this position, until the play-the-ball movement is complete.
Retire at play-the-ball (g) players of the side not in possession other than the player taking part in the play-the-ball and the acting half back are out of play if they fail to retire ten (10) metres from the point at which the ball is played or to their own goal lines. Players of the side in possession other than the player taking part in the play-the-ball and the acting halfback must retire behind their players involved in the play-the-ball or to their own goal line.
(h) having retired the distance prescribed in the preceding paragraph no player of the team not in possession may advance until the ball has cleared the ruck. A player who is out of play may again take part in the game when the advantage gained by not retiring has been lost.
Speed essential 11. The play-the-ball must be performed as quickly as possible. Any player who intentionally delays the bringing of the ball into play shall be penalised.
Tackling on or near the goal line 12. If part of the tackled player is on or over the goal line but the ball is in the field of play the tackled player shall play the ball where the ball lies.
If a player is tackled in an upright position bestriding the goal line he is deemed to be tackled in the in-goal area.
Foul “throws” 1. (a) A tackler must not make use of any special “holds” or “throws” which are likely to cause injury or use his knees in the tackle. It is permissible for a tackler to bring a player in possession of the ball to the ground by pulling him over the outstretched leg provided he is holding the player with both arms before there is any contact with
Mid-air tackle 1. (b) It is illegal to tackle an opposing player attempting to field a kick whilst the player is in mid-air. The catcher must have returned to the ground before being tackled. (See Section 15.).
Moving tackled player 2. (a) Where opponents do not make a tackle effective in the quickest possible manner but attempt to push, pull or carry the player in possession, it is permissible for colleagues of the tackled player to lend their weight in order to avoid losing ground. Immediately this happens the referee should call “Held”.
2. (b) Where the tackled player is held in an upright position, the ball shall not be played before the referee indicates that the tackle has been effected.
Broken tackle Where the player in possession is brought to the ground, a tackle is not effective if the hold on the player in possession is broken before he is grounded. Before allowing play to proceed, referees should be sure in their own minds that the tackle was indeed broken otherwise the tackler who, playing in the true spirit of the game, releases the tackled player immediately he is brought to the ground, may be unfairly penalised.
Succumbing to tackle 2 (c) A player who is held and wishes to play the ball can make it evident that he has succumbed to the tackle by grounding the ball. It is to his advantage to do this to avoid the possibility of another opponent attempting to complete the tackle.
Second movement after tackle When an attacking player is tackled within easy reach of the goal line he should be penalised if he makes a second movement to place the ball over the line for a try.
If an attacking player in possession is brought down near the goal line and the ball is not grounded it is permissible to place the ball over the line for a try. In this case the tackle has not been completed.
Player marking dives on the ball 4. If the player marking the tackled player at the play-the-ball dives behind the tackled player in order to drop on the ball as it is heeled, he is guilty of a voluntary tackle and should be penalised. If there is no acting half back it is permissible for a player to dive behind the tackled player and drop on the ball after it has been heeled provided that, unless tackled, he immediately regains his feet.
Point of infringement 7. For the purpose of this Law the point of infringement in the case of a kick into touch on the full shall be the point from which the ball was kicked.
Indicating last tackle The referee shall indicate the fifth tackle by raising one arm vertically with fingers and thumb out-stretched and the sixth tackle by blowing his whistle, not to stop the game, but as a signal to the players that the ball has to be released for the opponents to play the ball.
Opponent “touches” ball By ‘touching’ the ball is meant intentionally playing it with any part of the person when it is not held by an opposing player. A ricochet or rebound does not count as a ‘touch’.
Charging down Cancels count Charging down a kick counts as a ‘touch’. ‘Touching’ the ball cancels the count of play-the-balls and the next tackle counts as the first of six.
Losing possession 8. If a tackled player loses possession of the ball at the moment of impact with an opponent or with the ground, play shall proceed unless stopped for some other reason, e.g. the ball has been knocked forward. A player in possession brought to his knees or brought to the ground on his back may still pass the ball – provided he has not made it evident that he has succumbed to the tackle. He should not be wrongly penalised otherwise all players will become reluctant to pass the ball as the tackle nears completion in case they too are penalised. The continuity of play would consequently be adversely and unnecessarily affected.
Stealing ball 9. Where a player steals the ball from a player on whom he is effecting a tackle, play will be allowed to continue. Where two or more players are effecting the same tackle - irrespective of whether all but one “drops off” the tackle, and the ball is subsequently taken from the tackled player, a penalty will be awarded against the player or players effecting the tackle.
Disputed possession 10. (a) If any doubt arises as to which player should play-theball (ie possession is disputed) the referee should call “…’s ball” naming the team in possession. In the case of a player lying on the ground and not holding the ball with both hands or arms, circumstances may arise where there is some doubt as to whether he is “in possession”. If with hand or arm he is fairly clasping the ball to some other part of his person then he is “in possession”.
Interfering with heel The tackler who is on the opponent’s side of the player should remove himself as quickly as possible so as not to interfere with the heel. If he does interfere he should be penalised.
Regain feet 10. (b) No part of the tackled player’s person other than his feet should be in contact with the ground when he releases the ball.
Not lifting the ball clear A tackled player, failing to lift the ball clear of the ground when regaining his feet, is to be penalised.
Accidental deflection 10. (e) When a tackled player attempts to play the ball backwards but accidentally deflects the ball forward, a scrum ensues with the non-offending team having the loose head and put-in.
Acting halfback 10.(f) Two players take part in the play-the-ball. All other players except the ‘acting halfbacks’ are onside if they retire the prescribed distance. The acting halfbacks must take up a position immediately and directly behind the player playing the ball.
No marker 10.(f) If no marker takes up a position opposite the tackled player and no acting halfback is present the ball is deemed to be “clear” immediately it is heeled by the tackled player, who may immediately regain possession and play on.
Penalise intentional interference 10.(g) If the ball is played quickly, all players will not necessarily have time to retire the prescribed distance.
They should be penalised only if they intentionally interfere with play – either actively or passively.
Accidental interference If the interference with play is accidental, a scrum should be formed. Interference should not be considered accidental when the player concerned has had opportunity to remove himself from the area in which play is taking place.
Off side player raising hands A player who realises he is out of play and is near play should raise his hands above his head. Taking this action does not, however, exonerate him from penalty if he interferes with play and the referee feels that he could have avoided such interference.
Indicating ten metres The Referee should usually position himself ten metres behind and to one side of the point at which the ball is played as a guide to the team not in possession. If tackling is excessively keen or play is unnecessarily rough, the referee may forsake the ten metres position in order to be nearer the players involved in the tackle.
Out of play: 10. (h) Any player who is in front of the kicker in play-the-ball general play is not permitted to advance beyond the point of the play-the-ball until the ball has gone past the off side player.
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