Ask the Ref - Rucking

James Jones answers another refereeing query regarding rucking and the legality of kicking to secure possession of the ball once a ruck is formed...

Law 16 - Rucking

Players are rucking when they are in a ruck and using their feet to try to?win or keep possession of the ball, without being guilty of foul play.??

Question - A ruck is formed and the attacking team have secured the ball but the ball is still in the ruck. The opposition player is on-side and on his feet, but kicks the ball out of the ruck placing pressure on the attacking team who had secured the ball.  Should this be a penalty to the team that had secured the ball?? 

I believe that it should, because the so-called defending team's player was not using their feet to try to win or keep possession but to place pressure on his opponents.  I queried this recently and the ref stated that providing he is on-side and not using his hands then this is ok.  Can you clear it up??

Answer - Firstly to quote law 16(3)(f) : "A player rucking for the ball must not intentionally ruck players on the ground. A player rucking for the ball tries to step over players on the ground and must not intentionally step on them. A player rucking must do so near the ball."

Therefore any player that intentionally makes contact with another player on the ground is liable to penalty as per the law.

Secondly, to directly answer your question, there is nothing in law to prevent a player kicking the ball out of a ruck. Providing the player does not use his hands in the ruck after the ruck has formed (with the exception of the recent IRB directive, the first player into a tackle prior to a ruck forming may remain with their hands on the ball should a ruck engage over them) even though this is not gaining possession it is not an illegal action.