What’s allowed when no one is left in the ruck?

Locke


Referees in America
Joined
Jan 23, 2022
Messages
37
Post Likes
12
Current Referee grade:
Level 10
Please help me wrap my head around the technicalities of the law here and how it is refereed in practice. I’ve tried to find other discussions of this but haven’t felt that I’ve found a full explanation.

Red player takes ball into contact. Blue player makes a tackle. One red support player and one additional blue player arrive almost simultaneously; they make contact and form a ruck. Red player in ruck drives blue player in ruck backward out of the ruck area. There is now no one on their feet in the ruck area.

I read in the law nothing that indicates the ruck is now over. But I’ve also seen discussion that no one new can enter the ruck because they have no one to bind to. How does this ruck end? Obviously someone will have to play the ball but,

1. Why isn’t anyone playing the ball here penalized for using hands in the ruck?
2. Can red pick it up, assuming ball carrier placed back on their side?
3. What it if ball carrier didn’t place and no one appears to have won the ball?
4. Does blue now have any way to come away with the ball in this ruck?

Any answers to these questions or any other insight is appreciated.
 

Decorily

Coach/Referee
Joined
May 3, 2013
Messages
1,230
Post Likes
248
Current Referee grade:
Select Grade
Unless I am misunderstanding the scenario you describe any player arriving through the gate into the tackle zone and remaining on their feet may play the ball.
 

Locke


Referees in America
Joined
Jan 23, 2022
Messages
37
Post Likes
12
Current Referee grade:
Level 10
Thanks for the reply. Why wouldn’t that be penalized as using hands in the ruck, since the ruck has not ended? Has any player arriving through the gate won possession simply by arriving since there is no one there to contest?
 

Decorily

Coach/Referee
Joined
May 3, 2013
Messages
1,230
Post Likes
248
Current Referee grade:
Select Grade
Once the 2 opposing players rucking over the ball allow the ball to leave the ruck then the ruck is over....ie they failed to keep the ball at their feet and protected.
 

Balones

Referee Advisor / Assessor
Joined
Oct 24, 2006
Messages
1,180
Post Likes
318
What we sometimes forget is that the ball carrier is supposed to release immediately and move away from the ball. We have been a bit lenient on this for years and have been allowing them the place and hold the ball. So strictly speaking once players have gone over the ball then the ball is out and can be picked up by anyone coming in legally. It just looks a bit wrong because the ball carrier is usually still either curled around the ball or perhaps still holding it; he/she shouldn’t be.
 

Blindside

Rugby Club Member
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Messages
38
Post Likes
4
Current Referee grade:
Level 1
What we sometimes forget is that the ball carrier is supposed to release immediately and move away from the ball. We have been a bit lenient on this for years and have been allowing them the place and hold the ball. So strictly speaking once players have gone over the ball then the ball is out and can be picked up by anyone coming in legally. It just looks a bit wrong because the ball carrier is usually still either curled around the ball or perhaps still holding it; he/she shouldn’t be.
 

Blindside

Rugby Club Member
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Messages
38
Post Likes
4
Current Referee grade:
Level 1
The further scenario to this is that the two players lose their footing while rucking and the next player that arrives legally attempts to pick the ball out of "the ruck" which is technically, strictly not a ruck, is he then allowed to? I have heard the quote "once a ruck always a ruck". Personally, I tend not to allow it unless it's a 9 (for some reason) and often blow when it becomes too messy, for a scrum to side going forward or if not attacking side, But am admit to having a lack of clarity regards the scenario. Just as well I only ref occasionally on a Sunday perhaps :)
 

Phil E


Referees in England
Staff member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
15,470
Post Likes
1,771
Current Referee grade:
Level 8
I suppose the best way to describe it is that if everyone has left the ruck, either rucked over, or off their feet, then the next player to come into the ruck area (providing he comes in legally from his own side and through the gate) is effectively acting as the scrum half, so can just pick the ball up.

The other way some look at is it that its called a dead ruck and the ball is free to play. No basis in law for this, but it helps us get on with the game.

For me if the ball is just lying in the open (no one on their feet in the vicinity) I want someone to pick it up and get on with the game.
 

Jz558


ELRA/Club Referee
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Messages
312
Post Likes
84
Current Referee grade:
Select Grade
Balones make an excellent point, the law says that tackled players must move away from the ball but I bet you can't remember seeing one being penalised for not doing so.

If, as described in your question only one player from each side engages in the ruck then once one player has been driven off, the ball is out. In your scenario, of course, the red player could make a herculian effort to remove the blue player only for a blue team mate to approach the ball legally and simply pick it up.

Its worth remembering that a ruck is only a vehicle for competing for the ball when it is on the ground, if there is no competition (ie no ruck over the ball) there is no ruck and it can simply be picked up. Players already on the ground have no right to play the ball.
 

didds

Resident Club Coach
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
10,780
Post Likes
1,198
IMO that is just ball out, ruck over.
Players must come from an onside (ie from the previous ruck offside lines, or as a bound member of the previous ruck) position.

However, whilst this wouldnt make much sense maybe, why couldnt an onside player run past the ball, turn around and pick it up ie hasn't come through the gate itself, just come past the ball initially from an onside position?
 

Mipper


Referees in England
Joined
Sep 15, 2021
Messages
49
Post Likes
27
Current Referee grade:
Level 10
I guess that once the ruck is over, there is no gate, so providing that they started onside, the oppo players can come from whatever direction they like to pick the ball up?

in reality the likelihood is that whilst players may initially onside, as the ruck gets pushed backwards, they may not retreat to stay onside, so that as soon as the ball appears, they are offside at the ultimate ruck position…
 

Jarrod Burton


Referees in Australia
Joined
Jun 19, 2013
Messages
609
Post Likes
132
Current Referee grade:
Level 2
The way I read this I'd say rucks over and provided the players come from an onside position they can approach and pickup the ball without coming through the gate.
 

Jarrod Burton


Referees in Australia
Joined
Jun 19, 2013
Messages
609
Post Likes
132
Current Referee grade:
Level 2
in reality the likelihood is that whilst players may initially onside, as the ruck gets pushed backwards, they may not retreat to stay onside, so that as soon as the ball appears, they are offside at the ultimate ruck position…
Pretty dynamic sequence of events, if Red shoves blue off the ball, exactly when is the ruck over? Do the feet of those two players set the offside line while moving or do the bodies of the player(s) on the ground? And how long do the feet/last part of the body need to be there to call it the offside line? Hard to describe what I'm thinking but if Blue were set up in an onside position and then a shove pushed the blue counter ruck off the ball and they took a step or two before falling over, do the blue players need to reposition because the instant there are no players over the ball the ruck is over isn't it?

I've generally taken the view that if a player is onside and the ruck breaks apart rapidly then they are still onside. If the ruck gets driven back with players on their feet then the offside line moves with it.
 
Last edited:

Locke


Referees in America
Joined
Jan 23, 2022
Messages
37
Post Likes
12
Current Referee grade:
Level 10
Resurrecting this slightly. Reds vs Waratahs highlights, starting at 2:40, the ruck seems to be over as we discussed here, the commentator initially thought so as well, but the player is penalized for hitting the 9. If the ruck is over, why can’t he hit the 9? Or why isn’t the ruck over?

 

crossref


Referees in England
Joined
Sep 14, 2009
Messages
19,700
Post Likes
2,239
that's a close call .. it looks to me like it's out - scrum half is holding the ball above and clear of the players in the ruck?
 

didds

Resident Club Coach
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
10,780
Post Likes
1,198
Resurrecting this slightly. Reds vs Waratahs highlights, starting at 2:40, the ruck seems to be over as we discussed here, the commentator initially thought so as well, but the player is penalized for hitting the 9. If the ruck is over, why can’t he hit the 9? Or why isn’t the ruck over?

because itys show biz rugby and they make it up as they go along, to paper over the cracks of not actually enforcing the laws as written because they've agreed not to which ccraetes a mess at times that otherwise cannot work

cynical? moi?
 

Mipper


Referees in England
Joined
Sep 15, 2021
Messages
49
Post Likes
27
Current Referee grade:
Level 10
109E0C35-1CC9-492B-BD78-2ECE59521CBA.jpeg
For me, I would penalise that too. Blue 5 is never onside.
 

Jz558


ELRA/Club Referee
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Messages
312
Post Likes
84
Current Referee grade:
Select Grade
Out for me also but Blue 5 offside. The defending line cant just stand there as the ruck whistles past and do nothing about it.
 

didds

Resident Club Coach
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
10,780
Post Likes
1,198
Out for me also but Blue 5 offside. The defending line cant just stand there as the ruck whistles past and do nothing about it.
agree wrt #5. the light blue on the other side of the ruck looks offside too
 

SimonSmith


Referees in Australia
Staff member
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
8,892
Post Likes
983
I saw that live, and said that 5 was never onside to be in a position to make that tackle. I was OK with the tackle itself, not where he came from.
 
Top