Law discussion: kicker and tee
EXCLUSIVE: rugby365 law guru Paul Dobson looks at a specific law surrounding the taking of a penalty kick.
It's a question of who has the say.
In the second half of the English Premiership match between Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks, Sale are penalised for collapsing a maul well inside their half and five metres or so from touch. Stephen Myler, bleeding head bandaged like a war wounded, immediately makes it obvious that he is kicking for touch. Just before Myler kicks to touch, Paul Diggin, wearing a water bib, comes up to Myler and the referee. He, a former Northampton star, is bringing on the kicking tee. Myler rejects Diggin's offer of a tee and punts the ball over the right touchline. The referee is about to play on with a line-out when his attention turns to Diggin and the tee. The referee then insists that Myler has to kick at goal. Clearly angry, Myler misses the kick.
Law 21.4 Penalty and free kick options and requirements
(c) No delay. If a kicker indicates to the referee the intention to kick a penalty kick at goal, the kick must be taken within one minute from the time the player indicates the intention to kick at goal. The intention to kick is signalled by the arrival of the kicking tee or sand, or when the player makes a mark on the ground. The player must complete the kick within one minute even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again. If the one minute is exceeded, the kick is disallowed, a scrum is ordered at the place of the mark and the opponents throw in the ball. For any other type of kick, the kick must be taken without undue delay.
Law 21.5 Scoring a goal from a penalty kick
(b) If the kicker indicates to the referee the intention to kick at goal, the kicker must kick at goal. Once the kicker has made the intention clear, there can be no change of the intention. The referee may enquire of the kicker as to the intention.
The kicker or the tee? It seems strange that the tee-bearer, presumably with remote instructions from the puppeteers on the stand, should have authority over the kicker and the decision-maker on the field.
And then what constitutes "arrival"? When the tee-bearer steps onto the field of play has the tee arrived?
The law forbidding the kicker to change his mind after indicating that he would kick at goal, goes back to 1954, when it read: "If, however, the kicker has indicated to the referee that he intends to attempt a kick at goal, it is illegal for him to kick the ball in any other way."
The sanction for kicking the ball in any other way was a scrum on the mark, the non-kicking team to put the ball in.
In 1964, the laws indicating intention to kick at goal changed a little: "The indication of intention to kick at goal may be given either orally or by action of the kicker which conveys such an intention, e.g. by commencing to make a hole for a place kick. The referee may ask the kicker to state his intention."
The kicker, not even the captain.
In those days sand and tee were not allowed. But their use started to get into the works: "The law does not allow the use of sand or sawdust for placing the ball on hard playing field when taking a place kick at goal, but in exceptional local conditions such a variation from normal practice might be permitted."
In the 1970s this variation was permitted in South Africa. Not all parts of the country have exceptionally hard fields but then its difficult to work out which hardnesses qualify and have different laws/regulations applying in different parts of the country. And so there was a general allowance to use sand, and the boy with the bucket of sand became common.
There were objections during the 1976 All Black tour till the first test when Bryan Williams kicked the first kick at goal and placed the ball on a mound of sand.
Sand was allowed at the 1987 World Cup and in 1990 the law stated: "The use of sand or sawdust is permitted for placing the ball."
In the late 1950s the Canadian Don Burgess wanted to introduce the kicking tee, common in gridiron, into rugby, but it took till 1988 for it to be allowed and then only in Canada. But in 1992 the law read: " The use of sand, sawdust or an approved kicking tee is permitted for placing the ball."
It was a slow process, but in 1992 it was still the kicker who was required to make his intentions known to the referee: "If the kicker appears about to take a kick at goal, the referee may ask him to state his intentions."
The kicker, not the captain.
This changed in 2001 to what it is now. The kicker still indicates his intention to kick at goal and indicating is done by the arrival of the tee or the sand or when the player makes a mark on the ground.
But this incident seems to suggest that the arrival of the tee is more important than the kicker's indication. That seems so wrong, that decisions are made by remote control and the players merely robots. And yet on other occasions you will see the captain, who is not the kicker, tell the referee that his side will kick at goal and the referee immediately indicate that it will be a kick at goal.
It seems that the laws need some straightening out in this case or at least some clarification. It should not be hard to indicate priorities.