Clip 1 – 15 February 2019 - Law 15

Ireland attacks France and get closer and closer to the goal-line. Jordan Larmour is stopped about five metres from the line and France win a turnover.

The ball comes back to big Sébastien Vahaamahina who tries to improve the position by moving forward, but he is stopped, adding to the heap of players on the ground. Two on their feet - Gael Fickou (12) of France and Rory Best (2) of Ireland.

They make contact with each other.
The ball is on the ground.
That is the recipe for a ruck.

DEFINITION
Ruck: A phase of play where one or more players from each team, who are on their feet and in physical contact, close around the ball, which is on the ground.

The ball is in the field of play when Louis Picamoles, on his feet and leaning on the ruck, puts his right hand down onto the ball and rolls the ball back towards his goal-line where his scrumhalf Antoine Dupont is waiting for the ball.

What Picamoles did was dubious, to say the least.

Law 15.11: Once a ruck has formed, no player may handle the ball unless they were able to get their hands on the ball before the ruck formed and stay on their feet.

The ball's touching the goal-line is significant.

Law 15 FORMING A RUCK
1. A ruck can take place only in the field of play.

DEFINITION
Field of play: The area between the goal lines and the touch lines. Those lines are not part of the field of play.

Law 15: ENDING A RUCK
18. The ruck ends and play continues when the ball leaves the ruck or when the ball in the ruck is on or over the goal-line.

Cian Healy, the Irish prop, dives in at the side, and his hand makes contact with the ball which goes further back in the French in-goal where Dupont grabs the ball. The Irish grab him and he touches the ball down.

When the ball touched the goal-line, the ruck ended.

That meant that all the ruck restrictions ended - offside, use of hands, side entry.

And so Cian Healy (1) of Ireland dived in to place his hand on the ball. He was entitled to place his hand on the ball because there was no more a ruck.

Healy was trying to score a try. So he reached out his right hand and it made contact with the ball.

Law 8.2: TRY
A try is scored when an attacking player:
A. Is first to ground the ball in the opponents’ in-goal, against the opponents’ goal post or its surrounding padding.

The goal-line is in in-goal. Grounding the ball on the goal-line would score a try.

Law 21 GROUNDING THE BALL
The ball can be grounded in in-goal:
b. By pressing down on it with a hand or hands, arm or arms, or the front of the player’s body from waist to neck.

The referee consults his assistant and then the TMO.

The TMO watches replays and then gives the referee his advice: "He has to show downward pressure, of which there is none. Therefore he has knocked the ball forward."

The referee awarded a scrum to France.

What the referee did was correct. That he did nothing about Picamoles's handling of the ball is dubious but it seems in practice nowadays that only the "other" side - the team not in possession at the ruck - is penalised for using hands in a ruck.  

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