Lets' say that team A are playing team B,

Team A get a penalty inside team B's half. Team B withdraw 10 metres; team A tell the ref they want to kick for goal and the ref does their fancy-pointing-arms thing.

So far, so good.

Often in this situation you'll see a player from team A unconsciously do something while they're waiting for the tee that otherwise could be interpreted as tapping the penalty. Things like dropping the ball and kicking it from foot to foot, a small (say 1/2 metre) kick along the ground, kicking the ball to themselves etc. All within range of the mark for taking a tap penalty and all technically tapping the penalty, but clearly with no intent to do so.

Here's the question:

If this occurs, can the penalty be deemed to have been taken and are team B thus entitled to come forward and pick up the ball/tackle the player in possession?

  • The "fancy-pointing-arms thing" is actually an instruction to the touch judges (assistant referees) to go behind the posts to verify the kick.
    – TrueDub
    Oct 1, 2014 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


In rugby union, No. Law 21.5(b) is the relevant one here.

21 Penalty and Free Kicks

21.5 Scoring a Goal from a Penalty Kick


If the kicker indicates to the referee the intention to kick at goal, the kicker must kick at goal. Once the kicker has made the intention clear, there can be no change of the intention. The referee may enquire of the kicker as to the intention.

The only circumstances in which a kick at goal then might not actually occur are -

  • if the kicker doesn't take the kick within 1 minute of indicating their intention. (law 21.4(c) - scrum to the non-kicking team.)
  • if the kicker doesn't take the kick correctly (law 21.5 - scrum to the non-kicking team)
  • if the kicker's team commit foul play before the kick is taken (law 10.4(n) - penalty to the non-kicking team)
  • Nice answer. The one last little question I would ask about it is if knocking the ball about could be interpreted as taking the kick incorrectly, assuming it's at the mark, is a kick and it moves a visible distance, but not at the goal. Obviously a ref wouldn't bother, but if the opponents captain pointed it out, would the ref be obliged to act?
    – Niall
    Oct 1, 2014 at 18:18
  • No he wouldn't be obliged to act. "6.A.4(a) The referee is the sole judge of fact and of Law during a match." See here for comments on a captain's right to talk to a referee.
    – imc
    Oct 2, 2014 at 19:12

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