New law 9.19 – Lifting in open play
World Rugby has issued a law to the game, which now makes it an offence to fail to bring a player being lifted to the ground safely in open play. This brings open play law into line with lineout lifting and reaffirms player safety measures being taken across the game.
In a formal clarification from the World Rugby Council, Law 9 – Foul Play now has a new section. New law 9.19 has been added:
In open play, any player may lift or support a player from the same team. Players who support or lift a teammate must lower the player to the ground safely as soon as the ball is won by a player of either team.
In real terms, this usually happens at a restart (kick off/22 drop out) when the ball is in open play – but can also happen from normal kicks in open play. The receiving team lifts a player to ensure they gain possession of the ball. This new law means they can’t leave the player in the air in order to ‘create’ a potential collision by the oncoming players – they must bring the player to ground straightaway.
This new law comes into effect immediately and existing laws 9.19 to 9.25 will be renumbered as laws 9.20 to 9.26 respectively.
At a meeting in September 2018, World Rugby’s Rugby Committee determined that certain aspects of foul play law needed to be reinforced by match officials:
High Tackles and Neck contact - Law 9.13 & 9.20
In both the tackle and cleanout as per current law:
A player must not make contact with an opponent above the line of the shoulders.
Every time the head or the neck is deliberately grabbed or choked, the offending player runs the risk of receiving a yellow or red card
Head contact and cleanouts around the neck must be penalised.
Match officials have been advised to work together to ensure that foul play is strictly penalised and that player welfare is paramount.