A rule which may confuse new players to rugby union is the knock-on rule and understanding what the rule is will ensure that you will enjoy your rugby experience.

When a rugby player knocks the rugby ball forward with their arm or hands, towards the opposition and the ball hits the ground or a member of the opposition this is a knock on. A team will be penalised for a knock on, by the opposing team being awarded a scrum with the put in.

What is an example of a knock on?

Does play stop when a knock on takes place?

What is deliberate knock on?

Can you get a yellow card for a knock on?

What is the exact law on Knock Ons?

What is an Example of Knock On?

There are a vast number of examples which can be used to demonstrate an example of a knock on. As mentioned previously, a knock on occurs when the rugby ball hits the arm or hands and goes forward towards the opposition. This can happen on a number of occasions:

  • When a player receives a pass and the ball hits the arm or the hands and goes forward;
  • When a player picks up the ball at the back of a ruck and fumbles the ball forward;
  • If the scrum half fumbles the ball forward from the back of a scrum;
  • If an attacking player is tackled and loses possession of the rugby ball and it goes forward; and
  • If in a line out an attacking player players tips the ball towards the opposition.

Below is a video of an example of a knock on. The team in black and white have a penalty on the oppositions five meter line. The ball is passsed wide however, when the ball is passed towards the camera a player is unable to complete the pass and instead of catching the ball, the player knocks the ball forward and into ground. The referee blows the whistle to show that a knock on has occurred and the team in gold and blue are awarded a scrum with the put in.

Example of when the ball is knocked forward and is not a knock on?

If an opposing player is kicking the ball and you charge the player down and the ball hits your arms and goes forward this is not a knock-on and the rugby ball is still seen as active. Another occasion is when you rip the ball from an opposing player and the ball goes forward. Again this is not seen as a knock on and the ball is active.

Does play stop when a knock on takes place?

When a knock on takes place, it is important to remember that the referee may allow play to continue following a knock on. The reason for this is because there maybe an advantage to the opposition team. Perhaps the opposition have recovered the ball and there is an overlap of players, the referee will allow play as there is an advantage to the infringement.

If the offending player recovers the ball then the referee will blow the whistle and award a scrum tot the opposition with their put in. The golden rule of rugby and any sport is play to the whistle to ensure that you don’t end at a serious disadvantage.

What is a deliberate knock on?

A deliberate knock on is when a player makes no attempt to play the ball. For instance, if a defending player see’s that there is an attacking team overlap which would result in and punches the opposition ball away without trying to play the ball this would be seen as deliberate knock on. This would be seen by the referee as a penalty offence. In most scenarios that I have seen of this nature a player is usually yellow carded for such an offence.

The following video was taken from the 2015 world cup game between Scotland and Australia. Australia are on the attack and there is a two versus one situation agains the Scottish winger. As the Australian player goes to pass to his teamate the Scottish Winger sticks out his arm and hits the ball away.

Now the referee goes for the scrum however, the Scottish winger did not make any attempt to catch the ball which would of been scene as an deliberate knock on. Therefore, as the offence was cynical and stopped a try scoring oppotunity. The player should have been yellow card and a penalty awarded to Australia.

Can you get a yellow card for a knock on?

Yes, if the knock on is deliberate then you will receive a yellow card. A yellow card will be deemed necessary if the deliberated knock is seen as cynical.

What is the exact law on Knock Ons?

The world rugby laws state:

11. Knock ons

11.1 A knock-­on may occur anywhere in the playing area.

11.2 It is a knock-on when a player, in tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent, makes contact with the ball and the ball goes forward. Sanction: Scrum (if the ball goes into touch, the non-offending team may opt instead for a quick-throw or lineout).

11.3 A player must not intentionally knock the ball forward with hand or arm. Sanction: Penalty.

11.4 A player must not intentionally knock the ball forward with hand or arm. Sanction: Penalty.

11.5 The ball is not knocked-on, and play continues, if:

a. A player knocks the ball forward immediately after an opponent has kicked it (charge down).

b. A player rips or knocks the ball from an opponent and the ball goes forward from the opponent’s hand or arm.