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Analysis: David Pocock's understanding of the laws leads to a unique turnover

The Wallabies back row showed his intelligence in what should have been a game-changing moment.

DAVID POCOCK’S UNDERSTANDING of the laws of the game led to a rather unique turnover of possession at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.

Conor Murray passed the ball into the Wallabies back row’s hands and the visitors should have scored what would have been a crucial try.

The situation unfolds from an Australia restart after Paddy Jackson’s penalty has extended Ireland’s lead to 20-14.

Restart

Henry Speight chases Bernard Foley’s kick, but Josh van der Flier is lifted by CJ Stander and Jamie Heaslip to take the ball cleanly.

Simon Zebo and Speight’s presence knocks van der Flier straight to deck, however, with Stander, Garry Ringrose and Heaslip looking to provide security over the ball on the ground.

No Ruck

What we see above is not a ruck.

The laws of the game state that a ruck is formed when “one or more players from each team, who are on their feet, in physical contact, close around the ball on the ground.”

There is no Australia player in physical contact with an Irish player over the ball here, meaning there is no ruck.

Without a ruck, there is no offside line.

Without an offside line, Pocock is entirely free to advance to where he intercepts Murray’s pass.

Pocock Pass

We can see above that referee Jérôme Garcès initially looks to ensure that the Wallabies are onside, before swiftly realising that there is no ruck, and no offside line.

Ireland are clearly confused by the situation and Murray simply passes towards Pocock for the turnover of possession, with several of his team-mates complaining to Garcès.

It’s a superb understanding of the laws from Pocock, but then it’s not too surprising that he adapts so swiftly here.

In 2015, we studied the Chiefs’ deliberate use of a similar tactic in Super Rugby. They simply sent one player to chase their restarts and make a tackle, with the other players standing off to avoid the formation of a ruck, and then advancing to disrupt the opposition.

Opposition teams and some referees were confused by the tactic – which has also been used in sevens rugby by Ben Ryan’s sides – and the Chiefs had some fascinating success with it.

However, this year we saw some intriguing examples of opposition sides exploiting the Chiefs’ ‘tackle-only’ tactic, with the Blues scoring a try directly from a pick and jam right over the top of the tackle.

And, rather unsurprisingly, Pocock was at the centre of another of the incidents where the tactic didn’t work out for the Chiefs, as he intelligently grabbed one of the Kiwi team’s players to form what the referee viewed as a ruck.

So clearly Pocock has spent some time thinking about this area of the game, and though the situation against Ireland was different – in that no tackle was made – the intelligent mind of the Wallabies back row instantly identified the opportunity.

On the very next phase, the Wallabies should have had a crucial try but fullback Israel Folau committed butchery on a clear overlap.

Folau Butcher

While Australia don’t take this opportunity – they wasted several other gilt-edged chances – Pocock’s understanding of the laws might well have been the difference in the result.

It is worth going back to the restart itself to point out that Speight is not behind Foley when the ball is kicked.

Offside

We can see above that Speight is clearly ahead of Foley as the out-half kicks, and it’s something that occurs quite frequently in rugby.

Ireland should have been awarded a scrum on the halfway line as a result, but it was fascinating to see what unfolded after Speight’s illegal chasing was missed.

But for Folau’s criminal decision to carry the ball with a clear overlap outside him, Pocock’s contribution could have meant a very different result.

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Analysis: The Chiefs’ brilliant ‘tackle only’ tactic backfired against the Blues

Analysis: Intelligent Chiefs push the boundaries by refusing the ruck

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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