Is sealing the ball at the tackle and ruck legal again?

Is sealing the ball at the tackle and ruck legal again?

Is sealing the ball at the tackle and ruck legal again?

Des CrowleyCoach, United States of America
Rugby CoachCoach

I don't believe it ever was legal, just that refs at professional level just let it go to allow for the game to flow, rather than blowing up every minute to penalise

Rugby CoachCoach

Like Dennis said, it was never legal, and nothing in the laws have changed.

Des CrowleyCoach, United States of America

The reason I ask is because on Australian coaching videos on the ARFU site it clearly shows players sealing the ball with elbows leaning on the tackled player. Also in the current Tri-nations the teams appear to be going in very low over the ball to create a 'pile up' beyond the ball...particularly NZ.

Bill JalbertCoach, United States of America

From my experience, Tri-Nations standards often don't apply to the US game, mostly because of the inconsistent officiating we get. Best advice is to contact your LAU ref's Society and invite one of the top refs to a session to review what they look for in a match. Might be best to ask for a ref who's likley to be assigned to your matches. That way they (ref) should remember what they stated in pre-season and call the match to that standard.

Simon JonesCoach, England


Here are the Laws relating to the tackle area and what is not allowed:


(a) No player may prevent the tackled player from passing the ball. Sanction: Penalty kick

(b) No player may prevent the tackled player from releasing the ball and getting up or moving away from it. Sanction: Penalty kick

(c) No player may fall on or over the players lying on the ground after a tackle with the ball between or near to them. Sanction: Penalty kick

(d) Players on their feet must not charge or obstruct an opponent who is not near the ball. Sanction: Penalty kick

(e) Danger may arise if a tackled player fails to release the ball or move away from it immediately, or if that player is prevented from so doing. If either of these happens the referee awards a penalty kick immediately. Sanction: Penalty kick

I hope this helps and it is interesting to see the different interpretations in different countries!


Simon JonesCoach, England


Here is an answer I gave about Bridging - you can see the answer and the long thread of answers in "Most read answers" under "Is bridging illegal?"

In order to answer your question, I spoke with Ed Morrison who is the RFU's Head of Elite Referee Development. He told me that there is actually no technical term "Bridging" in the Laws of the game. Rather there is a clear instruction that players entering the tackle area must stay on their feet.

The term "bridging" is commonly used to describe a supporting player leaning on the tackled player to protect the ball from the opposition. This results in the supporting player being in a vulnerable position with their neck exposed when they are hit by the opposition trying to clear out the tackle area. With all players, but especially younger players with softer bones, this is a great concern in terms of safety.

Therefore, the Law also states that supporting players should also be able to support their own body weight and this prevents the leaning on the tackled player.

My own view is that coaches should encourage players to adopt a scrummage position over the tackled player with head up so that they are protecting possession without being in a vulnerable position.

I hope this helps


Des CrowleyCoach, United States of America

Simon, Thanks for your responses. The last two paragraphs of your answer above reflect on exactly what's occuring on the ARFU coaching library 3v3 tackle/breakdown drill.The player is on his feet,good body position with head up but he is also gripping the shirt of the tackled player with forearms resting on the body. This form of sealing/bridging is legal wonder the referee's and players are so confused at the breakdown ....maybe 'old style' rucking over is the answer?

William OBrienCoach, England

Is Des correct - is it legal to hold onto the shirt of the tackled player as long as the player is on his feet with his head up?

Rugby CoachCoach

I have always understood it as no contact with the player on the ground as many support / ruck players used to hold the ball carrier down to stop him rolling away ..the big problem seems to be the variation of rules from International and elite standard rugby and the rules that lower levels have to use

Des CrowleyCoach, United States of America

I think the only real solution to the breakdown problem is to set both the players and referees free to unshackle the game by returning to 'old style' rucking providing quick,clean ball for the backs. Forget all of this roll away/release stuff and get on with the game in my view. Another thing the IRB could do is enforce the 'straight put-in' at the scrum as much as they do at the lineout!

Rugby CoachCoach


I completely agree that players and referees need to be free to 'unshackle' the game. However, not sure returning to 'old style' rucking would actually provide quick, clean ball. Defences are so organised now compared to 'old style' scrambled defences and players are well versed in 'spoiling' the game with cynical play, killing the ball more often than not (not saying it never used to happen).

Perhaps putting the offside line back a metre or 2 at the ruck would take away the necessity to kill the ball, gives ascendency to the attacking side, still allows for counter rucking but can more easily highlight players coming in from the side.

Or perhaps more onus on coaches to run a game of evasion where the team target is to play quick ball at ruck. Work towards a model where we can dictate the contact area with the minimum amount we need to win quick ball, have a backline where anyone can step in as the 9 to keep up the momentum of going forward, so we aren't holding up our attacking momentum.

So many options to look at rather than slowing, cynical play. Us coaches look at how the game is officiated and do use it as a way to moan about the ruck killing the game, but it is there for us to look at and choose not to let it.

Rugby CoachCoach

Bridging is illegal but the ref might not penalise for it if the advantage Law can apply. Those of us that played under the old ruck law are ambivilent about its passing into history. As a half-back I have a couple of broken fingers and a rib or two that clicks away, and my ears still ring with the cuff I got from my Ponsonby skipper (a front rower) who told me to keep my "b" hands out of it when we played in Southland.

Rugby CoachCoach

The "bridging" question is an interesting one, from my opion as a ref and coach it is about a players abilty to stay on his feet, if they are on all fours and the hands were taken away would the fall flat on their faces, if so they are off ther feet and "diving in" if a player is in a low stance, balanced on their feet but have hands on the tackled player i would not have an issue with it other than safety...

Rugby CoachCoach

I think from the responses above it clearly shows what a mess we are in, it is the responsiblity of coaches to

coach and refs to ref. It is quite clear in my mind when I am reffing and coaching that i approach this topic with

the IRB iniatives in mind, we do however need to have the strength to apply them, as i know and see some referees having difficulty with interpretation.


Des CrowleyCoach, United States of America

International referees are having the same problem as everyone else and we're really left with only Kaplan and Rolland at that level who can referee assertively to provide good games of rugby and they dont stand out in the game..the players do. Nigel Owens never shuts up and if he did he'd be so much more effective. Maybe the way forward is not the new laws which have made the game so closely resemble Rugby League ....with the uncontested scrum and tight defenses, not to mention the breakdown and the crooked feed into the scrum which is ignored by most referees at all levels now. Though I believe George Clancy called it early in the England v France game and that's a first for this season at Test match level.

In my view a return to old style rucking over at the breakdown, which the AB's were masters at, and see what'll clean itself up! Most teams, now just commit two players to the tackle and the other thirteen line out in defense! Does that look like Rugby Union?

The scrum...'crouch-engage'- steady..and wait for the ball to hit the ground in the middle before driving might solve that problem area. Rest after reset of scrums, why all the complicated rubbish..its a simple game gone crazy by direction of the seemingly confused powers that be at the IRB, maybe it's time for change in that outfit and not in the game itself? International coaches,players and referees are having a tough time with interpretations.

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