Referee Coach and Advisor
- May 25, 2007
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Surely under that interpretation cookie, the only way to clear a ruck is by driving forward and up. I don't believe it is collapsing the ruck as it only removes one player, out of the ruck. By the time the clearer is off his feet, both players by necessity are no longer in the ruck (so it hasn't prevented a contest for the ball). How is this diferent from blowing over? I also don't see how its any more dangerous. When done properly, the player attempting the role end up on the borron of the other. The many times I do it, I'm more likely to get a sneaky elbow to the head than injure the other guy.
Illegalities is not the only problem I have with this technique Nick, its safety at lower levels too. Juniors should not be taught this technique because, unlike adult rugby, there can be much wider disparities between the physical strengths of player. This technique, done incorrectly by a very strong lad, could break the neck of a not so strong opponent. Yet, I have seen schoolboys doing this, and very poorly.
Another problem I have with it is that we can end up with the confusing (and IMO ridiculous) situation, where all the players involved in the ruck from both sides are on the ground, and yet its still a ruck, because the criteria for ending a ruck have not been met.
[TEXTAREA]16.6 SUCCESSFUL END TO A RUCK
A ruck ends successfully when the ball leaves the ruck, or when the ball is on or over the
16.7 UNSUCCESSFUL END TO A RUCK
(a) A ruck ends unsuccessfully when the ball becomes unplayable and a scrum is ordered.[/TEXTAREA]
Remember the first penalty awarded by Wayne Barnes against McCaw in the match vs Wales? Wales kicked 3 points from it to open the scoring)
There was a ruck, players were saddle rolled away and there were no longer any ruck players on their feet. The ball was on the ground between players from both sides, more on Wales' side of the ruck than the All Black's, but certainly not at the back and available and Wales' scrumhalf Rhys Webb was not present. Welsh lock Jake Ball and McCaw both went for the ball, McCaw was slightly quicker and got his hands on the ball first and was then got pinged for hands in the ruck.
Now I can understand Wayne Barnes' thinking here. McCaw was pinged because in Barnes' mind, it was still a ruck and he was the second man in, but I have to ask a couple of questions.
1. As I see it, Jake Ball didn't have any more right in Law to pick up the ball than McCaw, so if Ball had got his hands on it first, would/could/should he have been pinged?. If not, why not?
2. If the ball had been in exactly the same place but covered by players off their feet, would either Rhys Webb or Aaron Smith have been allowed to dig for it? If so, why not Jake Ball and McCaw?
3. Since the Lawmakers have effectively killed rucking with feet (despite not having the courage to actually outlaw it), then raking the ball out with the feet is too risky. What are players supposed to do in situation like this, stand around and gawk at the ball but don't touch it?
4. On another day, with another referee, McCaw's actions might have been allowed (see England v NZ @ Twickenham two weeks ago, Nigel Owens referee).
For mine, this situation (when there are no ruckers on their feet and the ball is in plain view) is brought about by the advent of the saddle roll, and allowing players to roll opponents off their feet. If ruckers were made to stay on their feet and drive their opponents backwards to win the ball, it would force more players to commit to the ruck in order to win the ball, and that leaves less small numbers clogging up the back-line. The only way the ball then gets exposed is when one team drives over the top of it, and the ball comes out the back, satisfying Law 16.6 and making for a better game to boot.
The saddle roll has actually slowed the recycling of ball; go have a look at some Super 12 matches from the late 1990s, to mid 2000's; no-one ever head of the saddle roll back then and ball was won at the ruck just as I have described here, numbers committed to the ruck to drive opponents backs, and recycled quickly to waiting back-lines.