Clip 4 - 2 August 2017 - Law 17

Offside - at what?

From a midfield scrum, the Hurricanes attacked down the left. Ruan Ackermann of the Lions tackles Ngani Laumape of the Hurricanes from behind. Ackermann and Laumape go to ground. it's is a tackle. The only player to make overtures to the tackle was Perenara who crouched over it. Three Lions players - Andries Coetzee, Elton Jantjies and Ross Cronje - do not contest for the ball but stand back behind the tackle. The ball came back to the Hurricanes who went right but Vaea Fifita lost the ball forward.

The referee, who had presumably been playing advantage, then penalises the Lions for being offside, his gesture suggesting that it was the tackle thing that had set up an offside line. But had it?

It may just be that the referee had been jumping the gun.

At the time of this match, there was no offside line at a tackle, no offside line stretching across the field.

But there was an offside line at a ruck and it is still there.

Law 16.5 Offside at the ruck
(a) The offside line. There are two offside lines parallel to the goal lines, one for each team. Each offside line runs through the hindmost foot of the hindmost player in the ruck. If the hindmost foot of the hindmost player is on or behind the goal line, the offside line for the defending team is the goal line.

But was this a ruck?>

Law 16 A ruck is a phase of play where one or more players from each team, who are on their feet, in physical contact, close around the ball on the ground. Open play has ended.

This was not a ruck. There were not players from each team in contact and closing round the ball.

This is in a process of changing, in the wake of the Six Nations match between England and Italy this year when the Italians used the law to disrupt the English. From now on, a ruck will need just one player for its formation.

This is how it is in the process of changing: A ruck commences when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler). At this point the offside lines are created. Players on their feet may use their hands to pick up the ball as long as this is immediate. As soon as an opposition player arrives, no hands can be used.

This did not exist when the Lions played the Hurricanes in the match above.

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