Posted by IRB Laws on November 24th, 2011
“Law 17.6(g) says: “If the ball carrier in a maul goes to ground, including being on one or both knees or sitting, the referee orders a scrum unless the ball is immediately available.”
Often situations arise in the game when a ball carrier in a maul (especially when the maul consists of only 3 or 4 players) goes to ground with an opponent remaining on his feet with his arms wrapped around the ball. ARU asks the following questions:
a) Does the opponent on his feet need to release the ball carrier given that this is a collapsed maul and not a tackle?
b) Does the ball carrier have to release the ball to the opponent on his feet? Law 17.6 (g) indicates a scrum unless the ball is immediately available but places no obligation on the ball carrier to make it available by releasing it.
c) When a maul collapses, is there any obligation on players to roll away from the ball in order to make the ball available?
d) When a maul collapses, are players who go to ground able to interfere with the ball as it is being made available while they are still off their feet? If not, what is the sanction and what is the basis in Law?”
Clarification of the Designated Members of the Rugby Committee
Questions (a), (b) and (c) relate to questions of Law and (d) relates more to the application of Law.
There is a further variable to be taken into account when the ball goes to ground at a collapsed maul and there are players from both sides on their feet bound over the ball so that Law 16 – Ruck becomes applicable.
(a) If a maul collapses and the ball does not touch the ground the player on his feet is not obliged to release the ball or ball carrier unless the ball touches the ground and a ruck is formed.
111104 LW Clarification 2 : 2011 Page 2 of 2
(b) The original ball carrier who goes to ground (knee or sitting) who can play the ball must do so immediately and the referee then has a judgement to make:
i. When the ball carrier goes to ground and the ball is unplayable (i.e. the ball is not available immediately), through no fault of the ball carrier, then the referee awards a scrum as per 17.6(g).
ii. When the ball carrier goes to ground and that player fails to make the ball available the sanction is a penalty kick to the opposition as per 17.2(d)
(c) At a collapsed maul there is no obligation in Law for players to roll away unless a ruck subsequently occurs.
(d) If this occurs Law 17 has not been applied because the ball has not been made available immediately and the referee should have stopped the game and awarded a scrum or a penalty sanction dependent on the actions of players before.