Clarification in Law by the Designated Members of the Rugby Committee
Clarification 1-2023 Union / HP Ref Manager World Rugby 7s Referee Manager Law Reference 6 & 21 Date 18 May 2023
In a recent World Sevens Series fixture in Hong Kong an attacking player carrying the ball into in-goal, placed the ball down on what he believed was the ground, but actually placed the ball on the corner post which had been dislodged by the tackler and was now lying in in-goal. Could the referee have awarded a try?
See the accompanying video at https://www.world.rugby/the-game/laws/clarification/2023/1/
Clarification of the Designated Members of the Rugby Committee
Relevant law wordings:
6.12 If the ball is touched by the referee or other non-player in in-goal, the referee judges what would have happened next and awards a try or a touch down at the place where the contact took place.
21.1a The ball can be grounded in in-goal: By holding it and touching the ground with it.
21.3 An attacking player grounding the ball in in-goal scores a try.
This is a unique situation that is highly unlikely to be repeated. The ball carrier committed no offence and did everything requested in law. The tackler committed no offence and did everything requested in law. Had the flag post not been dislodged, there is every reason to suggest the ball would have been grounded and a try awarded. But, through no fault of the players, the ball hasn’t been grounded as expected or defined in law.
Had the ball carrier placed the ball on a non-player - the referee’s foot, a physio, or an encroaching spectator - then law 6.12 gives the referee the power to determine what would likely to have happened next and to rule accordingly. We think this should be the same outcome for this situation. Therefore, the referee may award a try if they believe a try would have been scored had it not been for the flag in the way.
The same would be the case if some other item had been left/discarded/blown into in-goal and the ball “grounded” on it. In the next law cycle, World Rugby will look to amend 6.12 to include other objects as well as non-players