What is a Neck Roll in Rugby Union and Why is it Dangerous?

A neck roll typically occurs in a ruck situation when an attacking player attempts to remove a defender in a jackal position over the ball. The dangerous/illegal element occurs when the attacker arms move up the body onto the neck and shoulder area, then attempts to ‘roll’ this player out of the ruck by the neck. Sometimes referred to as a neck ‘grab’, this has been forbidden in rugby union since 2016 when World Rugby ammended the laws surrounding the ruck area.

What is the sanction for a neck roll?

Well, as is often the way with rugby union, the laws are there to be interpreted! World Rugby Law 10.4(e) States:

Every time the head or the neck is deliberately grabbed or choked, the offending player runs the risk of receiving a yellow or red card

World Rugby Law 10.4(e)

Which would seem fairly definitive. However, in the next sentence the same law goes onto add, cleanouts around the neck must be penalised. If you look back to 16/17/18 there was a strong focus from referees, potntially looking to ‘stamp out’ the practice, you’ll see an abundance of yellow cards. Currently, it’s much more likely to be a straightforward penalty, though the sanction will be increased for repeat/serious offenders, as Wallaby Hooker Folau Fainga’a learned in last years Autumn International against Ireland, earning himself a yellow card.

It might seem a little frustrating to not have hard and fast rules in these instances, again, that’s one of the reasons our sport has laws and not rules. As World Rugby puts it “There is no formula for determining a Yellow Card sanction in these situations.”

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