Tackle in the Air

By Referees Department

This is an odd one. If we look at the clip, we have a scrumhalf jumping to catch a high pass and just before he lands with the ball, he is tackled cleanly by the winger - nothing malicious.

But it feels wrong. We all know if players, who have jumped to catch a ball that was kicked, are played while in the air the player who played him is liable to be sanctioned as this is considered to be dangerous play. Now suddenly we have someone jumping to catch a pass, not a ball been kicked, and is tackled just before he lands. What now?

Well we need to read the lawbook and see if we get an answer.

  • Law 9.17: A player must not tackle, charge, pull, push or grasp an opponent whose feet are off the ground.
  • Law 13: The game is played only by players who are on their feet.

There is the answer: Players in the air, whether catching a ball from a pass or kick, cannot be touched until they themselves have landed onto the ground.

However, players with the ball, must now not think they can jump in the air (like doing hurdles) to dodge a tackle and so gain a penalty kick if played in the air. They themselves are now liable to be penalised as their actions are reckless or dangerous to others.

Interestingly this application also aligns itself to lineout players who also cannot be played in the air when contesting for the ball.

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