Posted by IRB Laws on November 24th, 2011
Law 12, Definitions state: “A knock-on occurs when a player loses possession of the ball and it goes forward, or when a player hits the ball forward with the hand or arm, or when the ball hits the hand or arm and goes forward, and the ball touches the ground or another player before the original player can catch it.”
The Law does not explicitly cover scenarios where the ball is ripped out of the possession of a ball-carrier by an opponent. In these situations it is almost impossible for the referee to determine exactly who last touched or had physical contact with the ball.
For the sake of improving consistency of ruling from referees worldwide, in the following scenarios, has a knock-on occurred? If so, who has knocked the ball on?
- Ball-carrier A from the red team runs towards the blue team’s dead ball line. Opponent B approaches A from in front and rips the ball out of A’s hands such that neither player has possession of the ball and the ball travels towards the blue team’s goal line. (We often see this ruled a knock-on by A).
- Ball-carrier A from the red team runs towards the blue team’s dead ball line. Opponent B approaches A from behind and rips the ball out of A’s hands such that neither player has possession of the ball and the ball travels towards the red team’s goal line. (We often see this either ruled play or a knock-on by B).
Clarification of the Designated Members of the Rugby Committee
In each of the scenarios outlined the ball carrier is not responsible for losing possession.
In scenario 1 the ball has been ripped from the ball carrier by a player ripping the ball from the ball carrier’s hands and it goes towards that player’s goal line. There is no infringement in Law and play should continue.
In scenario 2 the player ripping the ball out of the ball carrier’s hands is effectively throwing the ball towards the opposition team’s goal line and this is an infringement which requires the referee to award a scrum with the non-offending team throwing in subject to advantage.