Foul Play

What is Foul Play?

Law 9 of the Laws of the Game sets out the various categories of dangerous play and misconduct. Law 9 is available here: Laws of the Game | World Rugby Laws

Under World Rugby Regulation 17 (the Regulation which deals with Foul Play, see further below), an action is only Foul Play if it is:

  • intentional; or
  • reckless.

If an action is an accident, it is not Foul Play. Where a player believes he/she has committed an accident he/she will often seek to show this during the hearing in an effort to have his/her case dismissed. In these cases Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committees often have to examine the distinction between accidental and reckless carefully (including asking questions of the player). This will be dealt with in more detail during the workshop, however by way of summary below:

What is intentional?

The Player decided what he/she was going to do and then sought to do it. Intentional Foul Play is considered to be more serious than reckless (for sanctioning, see further below).

What is reckless?

The Player knew (or should have known) there was a risk of committing Foul Play in acting as he/she did (e.g., in lifting a player in a tackle even if he/she did not intend to tip him/her or in putting his/her hands on a player’s face even if he/she did not intend to put his/her finger in the player’s eye).

What is accidental?

The Player did not know and could not have known that there was a risk of committing Foul Play (e.g., in tackling a player low around the waist he/she could not have predicted or avoided the player suddenly and dramatically changing their height at the last second leading to head contact in the tackle).

What is the standard of proof?

The standard of proof for all matters under Regulation 17 is the balance of probabilities (see Regulation 17.15.1). This means in deciding any question which arises in the disciplinary process (e.g. was Foul Play committed, was it intentional or reckless etc?), Judicial Officers and Disciplinary Committees have to consider what is more probable based on the evidence.