Clip 4 - 21 February 2018 - Law 11

Knock-on? Clearly and obviously a knock-on?

From a tackle thing, the ball comes back to Antoine Dupont, France's substitute scrumhalf. He kicks a long way downfield towards his left. Keith Earls, Ireland's right wing, falls back to catch the ball. He is side-on, facing the far touchline, when the ball lands in his hands and he drops it. The referee blows his whistle, signals a knock-on in awarding a scrum to France.

The modern referee's criteria for stopping play are 'clear and obvious'.

From the camera's height, it would seem that the ball goes slightly backwards from Earls's hands. But the referee decided it was a knock-on.

The referee did not have the advantage of a bird's-eye view. He was on the ground.

The referee was not level with Earls when he decided that the ball went forward. He was 25 metres or more away from him, straight down the field.

Each of the assistant referees were also some 25 metres downfield from the place where Earls dropped the ball.

It just could not have been clear and obvious to any of the three that it was a knock-on.

They may have had an interfering whisper from the TMO, which seems highly unlikely and out of protocol.

In such a case it would have been prudent to let play go on. Normal people would realise that the referee is not best place to be sure.

It would have been a different matter if Earls had been facing the kick and it clearly broke forward out of his attempted catch.

Clear and obvious - otherwise be quiet. advert