What is a deliberate knock-on? And what do these incidents lead to? We run through this area of the oval-ball game

What is a knock-on in rugby union?

A knock-on is what it says on the tin and occurs when a player knocks the ball forward, most often when they are possession or attempting to catch a ball. The team without the ball are given the put-in at a scrum.

They frequently occur when a team are piling pressure on their opponent’s line and one of the forwards spills the ball, an attacker drops the ball over the line trying to score or some butter-fingered person just fumbles it with no one in the vicinity.

It can also occur if a player tackles an opponent, hits the ball in the act and it goes forward, which hardly seems fair but there you go and back for the scrum you go.

Have a look at this video to see how an Owen Farrell try was disallowed in the 2018 Calcutta Cup match after a big hit from Courtney Lawes did just this.

What is a deliberate knock-on in rugby?

Deliberate knock-ons are penalised, often with a yellow card but always with a penalty, and this is one of the daftest laws in rugby in my view.

How often have you seen a defender attempt to intercept a ball, grass it and then be given ten minutes in the sin-bin as if they were trying to do that rather than go the length of the pitch to score? Deliberate, do me a favour.

Jonny May even got a red card for two of these playing for Leicester against Harlequins in 2017. It seemed unfair then and it seems unfair now. That day, May fancied his chances of scoring at the other end on both occasions but watched the last knockings of the match in a massive sponsored overcoat.

Knock-on in rugby

Maro Itoje attempts to charge down Nic White (Getty Images)

But the good news for teams who are determined to get at box-kicking scrum-halves is that a chargedown is not considered a knock-on. So feel free, as long as you are onside, to make the most of this and try to stop them punting the ball aimlessly. Maro Itoje, with his telescopic arms, is one of the world leaders in this.

Knock-ons can prove very costly. Chris Ashton once made two crucial blunders playing for Toulon against Lyon in 2018 and the game finished 19-19, with the knock-ons costing his side a place in the Top14 semi-finals.

Just imagine what the reaction would have been if he had knocked the ball on performing his infamous ‘Ash Splash’.

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