Law discussion: Farrell's flawed technique
SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: @rugby365‘s law guru Paul Dobson looks at the flawed tackling technique of England flyhalf Owen Farrell.
The score is 31-all. From inside his 22, Owen Farrell kicks downfield with all his players in front of him. Darcy Graham, Scotland’s right wing, collects the ball on his left and races upfield.
Farrell has chased his kick and approaches Graham who kicks ahead on about his own 22. He kicks with his right foot, which is back on the ground when Farrell collides with him. The ball lands about 12 metres inside the England half. Play goes on to the next stoppage when the referee consults the TMO.
They examine the evidence and come to the conclusion that the way that Farrell tackle/charge was illegal in that he did not use his arms and in fact his shoulder made dangerous contact with Graham’s neck/head area.
But they did not think that there had been any intent to harm in Farrell’s contact with Graham. And the upshot was a penalty where the collision took place and no further sanction, such as a yellow card. Nor was Farrell cited after the event.
There are two things to look at – one, the nature of the charge and, two, the timing of the charge. (Use the word charge, for it was not a tackle.)
The Nature of the Charge
There is nothing in the law that says that a player MUST tackle or in fact make any sort of contact with an opponent. But it does say that there are certain ways of tackling or making contact that are forbidden, those that come under the heading Dangerous Play.
Law 9 DANGEROUS Play
11. Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others.
12. A player must not physically or verbally abuse anyone. Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to, biting, punching, contact with the eye or eye area, striking with any part of the arm (including stiff-arm tackles), shoulder, head or knee(s), stamping, trampling, tripping or kicking.
13. A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously. Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders.
14. A player must not tackle an opponent who is not in possession of the ball.
15. Except in a scrum, ruck or maul, a player who is not in possession of the ball must not hold, push, charge or obstruct an opponent not in possession of the ball.
16. A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without attempting to grasp that player.
Go through every one of those six “must nots” and see how each one applies to Farrell.
Surely the penalty is the least sanction that can be applied.
The Timing of the Charge
Law 9.25 A player must not intentionally charge or obstruct an opponent who has just kicked the ball.
Sanction: Penalty. The non-offending team chooses to take the penalty either:
At the place of the infringement; or
Where the ball lands or is next played but not nearer than 15 metres from the touchline; or
If the ball is kicked directly into touch, on the 15-metre line in line with where the ball crossed the touchline; or
If the ball lands in in-goal, touch-in-goal or on or over the dead-ball line, five metres from the goal line in line with where the ball crossed the goal line and at least 15 metres from the touchline; or
If the ball hits a goal post or crossbar, where the ball lands.
where the ball lands
The laws do not have a late tackle defined. But it is probably safe to presume that, if a player has kicked or passed the ball and then is tackled or charged, that tackle or charge was late, that is not in time.
Farrell charged into him.
Farrell has infringed Law 9.25.
It is not wise to talk about commitment, but much better to look at the fact.
It is a fact that Graham had kicked the ball.
It is a fact that Farrell then charged into him.
In any case what was Farrell committed to. He was not committed to charging down the kick and he was not committed to tackling Graham. What he did do – and had time to do it – was bring his left shoulder into a position to make first and dangerous contact with Graham.
Apparently in this case the match officials decided that it was the nature of the contact and not its lateness that counted. Otherwise, if they had decided it was late charge, then the mark of the penalty would have been 12 metres inside the England half, that is where the ball landed.
It’s hard to see why it should not be so.
By Paul Dobson