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Ask the Ref: Shorthanded U19 Teams and Scrums

Wednesday Sep 23, 2009 in Off the Field Ask the Ref

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Hey Ref: "We had a U19 game the other day and our winger was yellow carded.  At the next scrum, the referee told us that both teams had to go to a 7 on 7 scrum in a 3-4-0 configuration since one team was down to 14 players - is this correct?"

These referee instructions are consistent with how Law section 20.1(f) of the Under-19 Variations was interpreted prior to 10 August 2009.  The issuance of Law Ruling 6:2009 changes this interpretation and indicates that the previous lack of clarity "will be referred to the Chairman of the Rugby Committee for the Law to be amended to provide clarity."

The U19 Variation of Law section 20.1(f) states the following:

Chris Draper has officiated at the highest levels, including the NA4, USA Sevens, and full internationals. (Dobson Images)

"In an 8 person scrum the formation must be 3-4-1, with the single player (normally the Number 8) shoving on the 2 locks. The locks must pack with their heads on either side of the hooker.

Exception: A team must have fewer than eight players in its scrum when either the team cannot field a complete team, or a player is sent off for Foul Play, or a player leaves the field because of injury.

Even allowing for this exception, each team must always have at least five players in a scrum.

If a team is incomplete, the scrum formation must be as follows:

If a team is without one player, then both teams must use a 3-4 formation (i.e. no No.8).

If a team is without two players, then both teams must use a 3-2-1 formation (i.e. no flankers).

If a team is without three players, then both teams must use a 3-2 formation (i.e. only front rows and locks)."

While not included in the situations addressed by the Exception, referees implementing the U19 Variations of Law section 20.1(f) have previously considered a player that is formally cautioned and temporarily suspended (i.e. shown the Yellow Card) to be functionally equivalent to a player that has been sent off for Foul Play.  This has been further clarified in Ruling 6:2009 by expanding the Exception in Law section 20.1(f) to situations where a player "leaves the field of play for any reason and cannot be replaced due to injury, sending off, temporary suspension or any other reason."

Given this approach, the fact that the U19 Variation of Law section 20.1(f) indicates that any time "a player" reduces the number of players on the field from those required for a "complete team" means that the temporary suspension of a winger from a single team would require both to reduce the numbers in both scrums.

However, Ruling 6:2009 also narrows the scope of the requirement by stating that "the complete team is a reference to having eight players who can play in the scrum."  According to the Ruling, this Exception was only intended to apply if the player that must leave the field of play is a forward.  In conclusion, Ruling 6:2009 states: "If any player other than a forward has to leave the field for any reason and cannot be replaced there will be no reduction in players playing in the scrum."

While the referee was correct, from 10 August 2009, the loss of your winger due to a yellow card would not require the scrums to reduce in numbers.

- Chris Draper © www.erugbynews.com

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