If a player accidentally hits the ball forward into the air, it isn't a knock on until the ball hits the ground, but is that player considered the ball carrier? Can that player be legally tackled, forcing a knock-on?

For example, a pass is made and a defender is able to bat the ball forward into the air. Can the intended recipient of the pass tackle the play who just batted the ball?

I believe that they can be tackled legally, but I haven't been able to find the supporting laws.

1 Answer 1


Basically if the player intentionally knocks the ball forwards then it is already a penalty. In fact this penalty is better than the knock on as you get a penalty kick instead of a scrum.

12(e)Intentional knock or throw forward. A player must not intentionally knock the ball forward with hand or arm, nor throw forward. Sanction: Penalty kick. A penalty try must be awarded if the offence prevents a try that would probably otherwise have been scored (http://www.irblaws.com/index.php?law=12)

If you intercept a pass, you must try to catch the ball, you cannot just bat at the ball (up or down).

From games I've watched the interpretation of it being hit instead of an accidental knock on comes down to how far the ball travels. If you "juggle" the ball from one hand to the other then that is considered ok. If the ball moves out of your reach then your not going to be able to catch it unless you bat the ball up in the air giving you time to chase.

If you're "juggling" the ball from one hand to the other then you are considered in posession of the ball and can be tackled.

  • You don't happen to know where in the laws it says that the last player to touch the ball is considered the ball carrier do you? I agree with everything you said, it is just calling someone not carrying the ball "the ball carrier" seems strange. Well, at least without a definition of the term "ball carrier".
    – travis
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 23:28
  • See update for a (hopefully) clearer explanation. I probably didn't word it very well last time.
    – Greg
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 1:05
  • 1
    Note that as soon as the ball hits an opponent while you are 'juggling' then a knock-on will be deemed to have occurred, so regardless of whether an effective tackle has been made, simply getting in the way of a player who hasn't fully controlled the ball yet will win you possession (or at least the scrum feed). Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 21:55
  • @Bogdanovist, I agree...but I wasn't sure if just getting in the way would 'technically' be enough. Would you actually have to make contact with the ball, to trigger a knock-on, before you obstructed the player that just knocked it forward?
    – travis
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 10:17
  • You would have to make contact with the ball for it to be a knock on, or the ball would need to touch the ground
    – Greg
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 19:09

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