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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 February 2006, 15:56 GMT
Quiz the ref
England players form a maul against Scotland
What are you allowed to get up to in a maul?

As part of our Six Nations coverage, we are giving you the chance to quiz two top Welsh referees about the laws of the game.

This week Nigel Owens answers your questions.

If you would like to contribute a question, fill in the form on the right-hand side.

Answers will be posted every Tuesday after a Six Nations weekend.

Q: All line-out jumpers seem to wear the strapping with the strip of high-density foam underneath it on their thighs to aid the lifters. Technically, is this legal? I've been told that officially they have to "have an injury" to justify this strapping. Is that right?
Duncan Darroch-Thompson, Suffolk

Well no, not really. You are allowed to wear shin pads, so technically what is the difference? Players wear wrist and forearm padding, too, so there is no real difference. It is a bit of a grey area, but at the moment it is allowed.

Q: What is the rule concerning kicking away advantage when a penalty is awarded? In a Leinster v Bath Heineken Cup match, Leinster had a penalty and the referee was playing advantage. But when they cross-kicked he called advantage over. The penalty would have been in front of the posts and would have been the difference between losing, which Leinster did, and winning.
Peter Lawther, Templepatrick

Phew! I was the referee in the last round of that fixture at Bath and thought for a minute you were blaming me!

Seriously, the advantage law is a pretty awkward one to get consistency on, as it is up to the individual referee whether he thinks advantage is over or not.

If the ref thinks a side has a clear opportunity to take advantage, but they make a mistake or misjudge a kick when under no pressure to do so, then he may call advantage over.

I can see your point, but I look at advantage by remembering these three principles.

  • Don't put the non-offending side under pressure to take advantage.

  • If they have a clear opportunity to take advantage but fail to do so by their own wrongdoing then advantage should be over.

  • Do not give a side two bites of the cherry to score - ie, if you don't score, no matter what happens I will bring you back for the penalty.

    Q: In a rolling maul, forwards block the opposition from tackling the man with the ball. Why is this not penalised like "crossing" is?
    John Lloyd, Manchester

    Ask yourself this: When a team is pushing a team backwards in the scrum and the ball is at the number eight's feet, why aren't the seven forwards in front penalized for obstruction?

    The answer is just the same as in the maul. The law that sets up the maul states that this is OK to do this.

    Q: If a grubber kick pops up and goes over the posts, is this counted as three points? And also, if a drop goal attempt bounces before going over the posts, does it still count?
    Stephen, Ireland

    No, none of the above count, but if a drop goal touches an opposition player then goes over, that would be allowed. You can only score three points from a drop goal or a penalty kick at goal which does not touch the ground before going over.

    Q: In the past we have seen players touching the ball against the post to score a try. My question is, how far up the post (vertically) does the try line extend
    Mike Price-James, Winsford

    Good question, but the ball must make contact with the post and the ground the same time. Here is a question for you now: Name four ways you can score a try without crossing the try line. I look forward to seeing your answers.

    Q: What do you define as a spear tackle?
    Jamie, Buckinghamshire

    A spear tackle is when you lift an opponent in the air, turn him upside down whilst in the air and force him or drop him to the ground head first. It is very, very dangerous and should be penalized, with a red card or yellow at least.

    Q: When a player drops to the ground to secure a loose ball, must the opposition let him get to his feet before tackling him? Frequently I see a player bravely go down on the ball, only to be jumped on by opponents and then penalised for holding on!
    David, Sydney

    Yes, the opposition must let a player get to his feet first, but remember that the player who goes to ground must try to get up immediately too.

    Q: What are the rules in relation to a quick line-out? Can a player from the team whose throw it is throw the ball to his team-mate if there isn't a line-out formed but there is a player from the opposing team standing where the line-out should be?
    John, Wilts

    Yes, he can. You must have at least two players from each side to form a line-out. Only then can he not take it quickly.

    Q: Can you please explain the rule surrounding the tackle area? I often see players penalised for stealing the ball from an opposition ruck even when the player is on his feet and behind the back foot.
    Thomas, Cardiff

    You say tackle area, but when it's a ruck there is a big difference.

    If a ruck is formed then no player is allowed to use his hands to win the ball in that ruck. A ruck is formed by at least one player or more from each side on their feet and the ball on the ground between them.

    Now if it is a tackle and one player arrives, as long as he stays on his feet and arrives from his own team's side of the tackle, then he may play the ball with his hands. I hope that answers the question for you.

    Q: When can you start your run to charge down a conversion attempt?
    Colin Salter, Melbourne, Australia

    When the player starts his run-up to kick it. Please don't ask about shouting at the kicker when you charge. It's not allowed.

    Q: Can a player join a line-out from standing in the scrum-half position and not have to jump?
    Tom Lewis, Saltash

    Yes, he can. It was changed a few seasons ago, but now it's allowed again.

    Q: When 'crossing' occurs, does the player crossing have to be directly interfering with play, or is it still a penalty if it is accidentally done?
    Lewis, Cornwall

    No, if it is accidental then it should be a scrummage, opposition ball, at the place it occurred.

    Q: I've got two questions please:

  • My understanding is that a player who comes on as a blood sub is not credited with a full cap. If this is the case, supposing they score a try whilst on, do they get their name on the scoresheet or is it marked 'sub' as in cricket? And if they then come on later as a proper sub, is it credited to them properly?

    You've got me there, I really don't know. That's not covered in the law book, I'm afraid. I think he does get a cap, but you had better ask someone who knows about that.

  • I'm sure that I have seen games where a try scored in injury time was not allowed to be converted. However, last week England were allowed to convert their injury-time try. Why was this?
    John Horgan, Essex, England

    Now I can answer this. No matter what time it is, if you score a try then you must be allowed to take the conversion.

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    Scotland 18-12 England
    25 Feb 06 |  Six Nations
    Ireland 31-5 Wales
    26 Feb 06 |  Six Nations
    France 37-12 Italy
    25 Feb 06 |  Six Nations


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