World Rugby have clarified that hurdling over a tackling player is against the laws of the game after a controversial try was awarded in Super Rugby Pacific last week.
The try came in the game between the Chiefs and the Highlanders when Chiefs no. 8 Pita Gus Sowakula picked the ball from the base of a scrum and jumped over Aaron Smith to score.
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) February 24, 2022
The try was celebrated across social media as a brilliant piece of skill and innovation, with Super Rugby showing it off any chance they got. However many did question the legality of the try as if you are allowed to hurdle over an opposing player, why don't players do it all the time?
But World Rugby have come out and clarified the law stating that you can't hurdle a player which means the try shouldn't have been awarded.
When asked for a law clarification, the World Rugby committee stated
We agree – jumping to hurdle a potential tackler is dangerous play, as is the act of a ball carrier jumping into a tackle,
Even if no contact is made, we believe this act is in clear contravention of law 9.11, and runs contrary to the game-wide focus on player welfare.
In this specific case [of Sowakula] the sanction should be a PK [penalty kick] against the ball carrier.
In the same meeting, they were also asked to clarify the difference between Sowakula's try and Johnny May's try against Italy in the Six Nations back in 2021.
That try stood in the game and there was no rectifying action afterwards. World Rugby stated the following on why that try was awarded.
A ball carrier may dive with the ball in order to score a try, and we all agree that should be allowed. From an equity perspective, if they do so, a defender may attempt to make a safe and legal tackle on that player.
As we have said above, jumping to avoid a tackle should be regarded as dangerous play and should be sanctioned accordingly, even if no contact is made.
World Rugby may have to do some more law clarifications after this weekend's events.