A really interesting one from the Referees corner this week. Several times this year I have witnessed that some teams are deciding NOT to engage or contest a lineout as a group which leads to somewhat of a shambles, with differing results and varying decisions between Referees. So I thought I would seek clarification from Jim Scardanas in this week’s Referees Corner.
Jim tells me that this was discussed in February this year at the Game Management Guidelines meeting held at the Master Builders Club. So, if a pack of forwards at a lineout decide not to engage a lineout then the following sanctions and/or processes must be followed. The Game Management Guidelines 2017 under the section headed QUICK THROW AND LINEOUT clearly state that:
Teams deciding not to engage the maul at lineout.
* If the defenders in the lineout choose to not engage the lineout drive by leaving the lineout as a group then Penalty Kick to attacking team.
* If the defenders in the lineout choose to not engage the lineout drive by simply opening up a gap and creating space, and not leaving the lineout, the following process should be followed:
The attacking team would need to keep the ball with the front player if they were to drive downfield (therefore play on, general play - defenders could either engage to form a maul, or tackle the ball carrier.)
If the attacking team immediately passes the ball back to a player behind the front player or at the rear of the group, the referee would tell them to "Use it" which they must do immediately.
If the team drives forward with the ball at the back (and ignores the referee’s call to “Use it”), the referee should award a scrum to the defending team for "accidental offside" (rather than PK for obstruction).
This sought of play which usually ends up in a confusing mess for all concerned, invariably occurs at an attacking lineout within metres of the goal line. As far as the Rogue is concerned and I think plenty of others would agree, any team that chooses not to contest at the lineout in this manner is not playing the game in the true spirit and by not competing shouldn’t be given very much consideration at all. Just penalise them and let everyone get on with the game in the spirit of fair play. Perhaps the Law makers could make the appropriate changes to the Law Books to ensure that this blight on the game is removed once and for all.