RFL alters policy around ruck penalties following 'infuriated' criticism of decisions

Referee Marcus Griffiths
Referees will now be encouraged to spot penalise intentional efforts to gain penalties at the ruck

Players who aim to gain penalties for passing the ball 'at' opponents in the ruck area will now be penalised after Rugby Football League amendments.

These policy amendments mean previously awarded penalties following passes aimed at players not causing the game to be affected, now result in the passer being penalised.

Officials boss Steve Ganson said there had been incidents of players 'acting contrary to the spirit of the game'.

The changes are with immediate effect.

In addition to the alteration of player 'passed at' penalty amendment, the RFL has also altered:

  • Players must ensure they place the ball down cleanly at a play-the-ball. Placing the ball on a tackler 'in the ruck' will ruled a knock-on
  • Players must not step over players to put them 'in the ruck'. Players will be encouraged to step backwards to avoid this situation.
  • The movement of the ball by the foot at the play-the-ball should be controlled, and players deliberately lying in the ruck who touch the ball in this position or prevent the dummy half from collecting the ball will still be penalised.
  • HOWEVER, if the ball is 'forcibly' heeled into a player trying to clear the ruck with the intention of 'playing for' a penalty, the team in possession will be penalised.

A number of high-profile incidents during and before the Easter weekend have shown certain teams or players acting contrary to the spirit of the game, in a manner that has infuriated fellow professionals, broadcasters and, crucially, supporters," Ganson added.

"After internal consultation, we have therefore decided to make these changes to referee policy with immediate effect, applying throughout the game.

"This is an unusual step, but not unprecedented - and we hope it will be welcomed by coaches, players and supporters.

"There is a meeting of head coaches next week, followed by the regular meeting of the RFL Laws Committee, at which these matters will be discussed, along with the situation regarding obstruction which has also been provoking a lot of discussion."

The Super League's response

"Super League has been increasingly concerned by the increasing number of players taking advantage of the strict application of the laws around players lying in the ruck at the play-the-ball and has been working with the RFL to find a solution.

"Super League is keen to stop players using the rules to gain an unfair advantage and supports referees who penalise obvious gamesmanship. It also welcomes allowing match officials to apply a less strict, judgement-based interpretation of the rules based on the official's observations at each ruck."

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