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Law discussion: Comings and goings

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On Friday night at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, South Africa A played the French Barbarians and there was debate about numbers at the end of half-time.

By Paul Dobson, Moonsport

The debate was probably made harder because of the language differences, real or pretended, and was really without animosity, but one often speaks louder and more deliberately when there is a language difference in the hope that louder will make it more comprehensible.

There are two clips with this story. The first shows what happened just before half-time and the second the debate at the end of half time.

It is worth noting who the match officials are for such a match. We all know there is a referee, his two assistant referees and the TMO.

Less obviously there are the match officials, labelled four and five, who each regulate the coming and going of the players of a team.

Then there is a timekeeper. Not only does he monitor the playing time of each half, stopping the clock when time is off, but also regulates the time of trips to the sin-bin and the time taken for bleeding and head injury assessment. (The timekeeper's record may also be audited).

The timekeeper often has an assistant who records time and action, including the running time which is time taken when the 'time is off'.

In South Africa at the big stadiums, the stadium clock is regulated by the timekeeper, and the television broadcasts take their time from the stadium clock. Sometimes adjustments are made. When these adjustments are made, the time will not be visible to the viewer and probably not noticed by him.

Where there used to be a referee with a tog bag, a whistle and a watch, there is now a squad and we are not even bringing in assessors and coaches and so on. The liaison man who got the referee to the match in olden days, could chug along on in his Beetle. Now he needs a minibus.

Let's start with a time line, as recorded on the Player Movement Summary Form, which is signed and handed to the manager of the match.

In this match, the French Barbarians had 18 player movements, South Africa 'A' had nine.

36th minute: Lucus Dupont (11) of the French Barbarians left the field for a head injury assessment. His place was taken by Arnaud Mela (19).
40th minute: Mela (19) was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Fred Zeilinga (10) of SA A.
Half-time.
During half-time, there was the possibility that Antoine Erbani (7) had suffered a head injury. That meant that he underwent a head injury assessment. Jean-Baptiste Pejoine (21) would take his place.

Law 3.12 Temporary replacement - Head Injury Assessment
If, at any point during a match, a player is concussed or has suspected concussion, that player must be immediately and permanently removed from the field of play. This is known as “Recognise and Remove”.
In elite adult matches only, which have been approved in advance by World Rugby (pursuant to Regulations 10.1.4 and 10.1.5) for use of the Head Injury Assessment and this temporary replacement procedure, a player who is to have a Head Injury Assessment :
Must leave the field of play; and
Shall be temporarily replaced (even if all of the substitutes/replacements have been used).
This is to allow for the assessment of a player where it is not immediately apparent if the player has concussion or suspected concussion and should be permanently removed from the field of play.
Where such a player has been temporarily replaced:
(a) If that player is not presented to a match official on the touchline within ten minutes (actual time) of leaving the field of play to undergo the Head Injury Assessment, the replacement will automatically become permanent and the replaced player is not allowed to return to the field of play.
(b) If the temporary replacement takes place within the ten minutes before half-time, the replacement shall become permanent unless the replaced player returns to the field of play immediately at the start of the second-half.

Lucus Dupont went off for his assessment in the 36th minute, i.e. within the 10 minutes before hhalf-time He was required to return to the field of play immediately at the start of the second half.

At the start of the second half, he was ready to return to the field and indeed tried to do so. Those controlling the movement of players onto and from the field would not allow him to, thus causing a debate.

The French were wrong to insist that he return to the field of play because the player who had replaced him, Arnaud, had been temporarily suspended and that period of suspension would not end till ten minutes into the second half.

Law 3.12 (e) If the temporary replacement is cautioned and temporarily suspended, the replaced player is not permitted to return to the field of play until after the period of suspension ... and only if the player has been medically cleared to do so and is presented to a match official on the touchline within ten minutes (actual time) of leaving the field of play to undergo the Head Injury Assessment.

Law 10.5 Sanctions
(a) Any player who infringes any part of the Foul Play Law must be admonished, or cautioned and temporarily suspended for a period of ten minutes’ playing time, or sent-off.

Arnaud was temporarily suspended (sin-binned) at the end of the first half. His suspension would thus be over 10 minutes into the second half.

When those 10 minutes were up, Dupont would be allowed back onto the field and Arnaud would cease to play and unless he was used as a permanent substitute for any player, including Dupont.

Those who resisted French insistence that the law be upheld, were correct and France started the second half with 14 players.

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