Common Infringements in Rugby

Did you know that infringements in rugby come with its own set of hand signals from the referee? But before we learn about these signals, lets find out about the most common fouls first.

Rugby 3
Image credit: Andrew Tan/SportSG

Forward Pass 

Passing the ball forward by means of throwing it to another player is not allowed in rugby.However, it is not considered a forward pass if the ball has been thrown backwards, bounces on the ground and goes forward. A forward pass results in a scum for the non-offending team.


A knock-on occurs when a player loses possession of the ball, which drops in front of him/her.This usually happens when a player attempts to catch a pass or fields a high kick under pressure. In both instances, it is only considered a knock-on if the player fails to catch cleanly resulting in the ball hitting the ground in front of him. A knock-on results in the referee calling for a scrum.

High Tackle 

While tackling is allowed and expected in any game of rugby, players are forbidden from tackling each other above the shoulder. High tackles are those where a player grabs his opponent around the neck or head area. A high tackle usually results in a penalty and if deemed dangerous incurs a yellow card and 10 minutes in the sin bid as well. If a referee views it was an act of serious foul play, then the offender could be given a red card and sent off from the game

Not releasing the ball on the ground 

When a player is tackled to the ground, he/she has to release the ball. Failure to do so prevents the opposition from winning possession or retrieving the ball and constitutes foul play. For a tackled player to play the ball, they first need to get on their feet again and then proceed to re-gather the ball. This is a penalty offence.

Not releasing the tackled player 

Tacklers have the responsibility to let go of the player in possession in order for the ball to be recycled. Preventing the attacking team from quickly launching the next phase of play constitutes an infringement and is penalty offence.

Tackling a player in the air 

While competing for the ball in the air is allowed, players are not allowed to tackle or disrupt an opponent who is jumping and is in a better position to catch the ball. This infringement is a penalty offence.

Bringing down a maul 

Once a team has established a maul, the defending side cannot pull it down and collapse the maul. It can only defend the maul by driving them back or out of the field of play. Collapsing amaul is a penalty offence.


This offence happens when a player deliberately impedes an opponent from getting to the ballcarrier. This is a penalty offence.

Not Straight 

This happens when a lineout is not thrown straight through the middle or when a scrum half feeds the ball unfairly to his team in a scrum. Such an offence results in a free-kick.

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