Law discussion: Referee stoppages
SPOTLIGHT: @rugby365com‘s law guru Paul Dobson again tackles the most contentious decisions of the past week.
On a summery day in Pau, France Women’s played England Women. We have two incidents where the referee stopped play when there was no rugby reason to stop the game – no infringement, no score and the ball was not beyond the field of play.
Incident 1 – 4 minutes into the game.
Incident 2 – 27 minutes into the game
England win a lineout on their right. They move the ball left where inside centre charges ahead but is heavily tackled by Gabrielle Vernier. Gabrielle Vernier is hurt in the tackle in midfield.
England win the ball back and continue going left where Abby Dow has a powerful run before she is brought down. Again the ball comes back to England who go to the right. Three passes takes them to the midfield where a medic is attending to Gabrielle Vernier. The referee blows the whistle to stop play.
Gabrielle Vernier is attended to and then the referee restarts play with a scrum to England.
At and England’s scrum on their right, France are freekicked. Natasha Hunt taps the kick and England move left out to Jesse Breach. Caroline Boudaud tackles Jesse Breach and the ball comes back to England. Flyhalf Katy Daley-McLean passes to flanlk Sarah Beckett who bursts through.
The referee blows her whistle to stop play, saying “I was in the way.” She does this because behind her was the French hooker Agathe Sochat who was reaching out towards Sarah Beckett.
The referee restarts play with a scrum to England.
Law 6.8 The referee carries a whistle and blow it:
b To stop play. The referee has the power to stop play at any time.
h. When it would be dangerous to let play continue or when it is suspected that a player is seriously injured.
Stopping play in both these incidents is within the referee’s power.
Law 6.8. h would apply in the second case. In any case, commonsense tells you that play should be stopped.
The reason for stopping play in the second case is not obvious.
The law covers cases where the ball or the ball-carrier touches the referree, which did not happen in this case. It makes no provision for the referee’s being “in the way.”
Law 6.10 If the ball or the ball-carrier touches the referee or other non-player and neither team gains an advantage, play continues. If either team gains an advantage in the field of play, a scrum is awarded to the team that last played the ball.
There is a case for letting play go on. The referee was entitled to be where she was. It may have been kind/soft-hearted to stop play but it is not within law.
The award of the scrum?
The referee awards a scrum for any other reason not covered in law
In the scrum zone at the point closest to the place of stoppage.
The team that was last moving forward or, if neither team was moving forward, the attacking team.
In both cases, the referee, correctly, awarded the scrum to the team in possession when she blew the whistle. In both cases that was England.