Whether or not a player has performed a 'double movement' in the act of scoring a try has sparked debate in the 2019 Six Nations, but what does it mean?

During the first round of the 2019 Six Nations, Scotland thought they had scored a try against Italy, only for the officials to decide that there was a ‘double movement’ in the act of dotting down.

One incident was notable. But in the final match-up of the opening round, Ireland’s Cian Healy scored a try against England. There were questions over whether there had been a double movement this time too, but there was no TMO referral and the try was awarded.

England went on to defeat Ireland in Dublin, but those question marks will remain for some. So what is a double movement?

Double movement is an established rugby league term and there is no specific mention in the laws of rugby union. However, we are used to seeing a penalty being awarded for a double movement whenever an attacker is ‘tackled’ before they reach the try-line, and after being brought to ground and held they make another movement to go forward and place the ball on or over the try-line.
Looking at the law book, law 14.7 states that a tackled player must immediately:
  1. Make the ball available so that play can continue by releasing, passing or pushing the ball in any direction except forward. They may place the ball in any direction.
  2. Move away from the ball or get up.
  3. Ensure that they do not lie on, over or near the ball to prevent opposition players from gaining possession of it.

The key phrase there is in 14.7.1: you must move the ball “in any direction except forward” when tackled. The player needs momentum to carry them over the line. You must place the ball once; if you initiate a second action, that is believed to be  a double movement.

The sanction for non-compliance here is a penalty against you – so if we consider that a player is tackled as they attempt to score a try, fall short but make a second movement towards the line and thus fail to “move away from the ball” as they get up, not only is the score chopped off but the opposition gain possession.

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