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Changes to tag laws for 2022/3

The new ITRA Tag Law book for 2023 has been published and is available at this link.


The following is a list of new rules, rule changes and clarifications since the previous version of the ITF rule book as used in the 2018 World Cup. The 2022 version of the rule book will be used for the 2023 World Cup in Limerick.

Rule 4.6

The ball carrier cannot pass the ball back after crossing the try line. If they do a tag will be counted 10 metres out in line with the origin of the pass. If it’s the 6th tag a c/o 10 metres out from the origin of the pass.

Reason for change: To reduce punitive sanction for players unfamiliar with rules of the game.

Rule 4.7

If the ball carrier crossed the try line to score but runs back into the field of play a tag will be counted 10 metres out in line with where they crossed the line. If it’s the sixth (6th) tag a c/o 10 metres out from the point where they ran back into the field of play.

Reason for change: To reduce punitive sanction for players unfamiliar with rules of the game.

Rule 5.21

A defender cannot dive on a loose ball passed, knocked back or knocked on by the attacking side. They can pick it up or kick it but diving on the ball increases the risk of serious contact. (Safety rule).

Note: Kicking the ball when an opponent’s hands are on or near the ball is still considered dangerous play and will be penalised.

Reason for change: As stated above this is a safety issue to prevent two players diving on the same ball and potential contact.

Rule 5.23

If the attacking player kicks the ball and is simultaneously tagged, they can retrieve the ball and a tag will be counted. They cannot kick the ball a second tie to gain a further advantage. To do so will result in a changeover.

Note 1: Kicking the ball after a simultaneous tag was previously a penalty offence.

Note 2: An onside team member can kick the ball the second time (normal height rule applies).

Reason for change: Penalty was deemed too severe so has been changed to a changeover.

Rule 5.24

If the attacker has passed the ball and is late tagged the referee should call “Late Tag, play on” and allow the late tagged player to remain in the play. If or when play is stopped by a tag the referee will call zero tag and continue play. If a player receiving the pass after a late tag call, kicks the ball, the late tag mark for the zero tag will be where they kicked the ball.

Rule 5.25

If the attacker has kicked the ball and is late tagged the referee should call “Late Tag, play on” and allow the attacking team the opportunity to regather the ball. If an attacking player regathers the ball, the referee will play on and call “zero tag”. If the attacking team does not regather the ball, the referee will penalise the defending team where they recover the ball or the ball stops, crosses the touch line or try line.

Regarding both rule changes above:

Note: Current practice when play breaks down is to offer a penalty at the original mark or a continuation of the tag count.

Reason for change: Plays advantage similar to that from a knock on. Rewards the non -offending team. No need to waste time going back for a penalty thus keeping the game flowing.

Rule 6.36

When an attacking player is in front of the play the ball, they cannot get involved in the next play unless they retreat past the mark of the play the ball. If they do, the penalty is awarded where they became involved. They are deemed ‘Out of Play’

Reason for change: In general play an offside player can get themselves back onside so this rule change extends this to the play-the-ball situation. Again, keeps the game flowing and reduces onus on referee to continuously monitor previously offside player.

Rule 6.37

If the attacking team infringe within 10m of their opponent’s try line, the mark for the penalty will be 10m out from the try line in line with the infringement and at least 10m in from the touch line.

Reason for change: To provide consistency with existing rule allowing the non-offending team to play a roll-the-ball 10m out from their try line after an attacking team infringement.

Rule 7.4

The ball must travel ten metres before any player from the kicking team can touch it. The receiving team can play at the ball before it goes ten metres. Once played at or if the ball bounces off a receiver, the ball is live. The kicking team cannot shepherd the ball or intimidate the receiver

Note: This is more a clarification than a rule change but it does emphasise the requirement on the kicking team players to not inhibit the receiving team from gaining possession of the ball.

Rule 7.29

If a player kicks the ball from within their own half and the ball bounces in the field of play then goes into touch within 10 metres of the try line, the attacking team will receive a tap kick 10 metres in from the touch line and 10m out from the try line. This action is called a 50/10. Note: a 50/10 can be made from a kick off or drop out.

Note: Existing rule awards the kicking team with a roll-the-ball.

Reason for change: To provide additional award to the kicking team.

Rule 7.37

(Kick to waste time) If a kick in general play or kick off is deemed by the referee to have been deliberately kicked over the side-line or try line to waste time, a 5-minute sin bin will be given to the player responsible. A penalty awarded to the non-offending side 10 metres out from the kickers try line centre field. The team will be allowed to complete the set of 6 regardless of half-time or full-time.

Note: This is not a new law but the sanction has been changed. Previously the mark for the tap penalty was on the half way or where the ball was kicked from and no mention of the full set of six having to be played.


Definition of “Closing the gap” – amended to include reference to causing contact. This will be more rigorously policed to reduce contact. Similar to cross body tagging (see rule 5.30 below).

Definition of “Tap Kick” – amended to state “both hands must be on the ball when touched with the foot if ball is held in the hands”.

Rule 4.10 has the term “under” added, i.e. “an attacker cannot deliberately dive over or under a player to score a try”.

Rule 5.6 states the marker must stand approximately 1 metre directly in front of the play-the-ball.

Rule 5.30 emphasises a cross body tag must not be an attempt to restrict the attacker’s progress. The tag must be immediate and without contact.

Rule 6.24 clarifies the ball may be accidentally touched by the foot of the ball carrier and rolled forward at the roll-the-ball but as long as it stays within the ruck and is subsequently rolled back correctly, play on. In other words a second heel is okay as long as the ball stays within the ruck.

Rule 7.2 – has been changed to prohibit the holding of the ball for the place kick at the kick-off.


The ITF has decided to remove the specific determinant regarding the golden try where a result is required in the knock out stages of an ITF sanctioned tournament. This will be determined on a tournament-by-tournament basis.

However, the principal of the previous drop off rule and right of reply will remain. A time limit may be applied.


This has been removed from the ITF rule book for now. May be implemented on a tournament-by-tournament basis.

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