Youth Rugby GMG Guidance (U-19 and below)

Posting an email from PNRRS Chairman, John Clavin distributed to PNRRS Referees on January 22, 2015:

For the first time that I can recall, USA Rugby have brought out a set of Game Management Guidelines specifically aimed at high school (U-19) rugby and making some clear statements about how the referees should interpret the laws of the game.

I’ve gone through the HS GMG and outlined below are the areas where there are differences compared to the guidance for adult 15s rugby, or where there is a significant change of emphasis for both.These are not optional, so if you’re going to referee youth rugby you must follow these guidelines. Where my descriptions don’t make sense to you, please go and read the USA Rugby Referees – 2015 High School Game Management Guidelines:



  1. Referee abuse from sidelines: No tolerance, warn the miscreant ONCE; if repeated, eject from the ground. (All versions of rugby)

  1. Breakdown safety: Squeeze ball technique now illegal, PK to opposition. (U-19 and below only)
  2. Tackle: Arriving players who step beyond the ball carrier specifically called out as being offside. Must remain over / near the ball. PK to opposition. (All 15s rugby).
  3. Tackle: Emphasis on safety at tackle, not on speed of possession, or retention of possession. (U-19 and below only)
  4. Ruck: Charging the ruck not allowed. Arriving players must bind (hand to shoulder) upon contact. PK. (U-19 and below only)
  5. Scrum: Emphasis on players following referee engagement instructions, and ensuring platform is square and steady (Safe). (All versions of rugby, but specific emphasis for youth – if you don’t like the scrum, blow it up and start again, PK if players repeatedly don’t comply).
  6. Scrum: #8 must bind on both locks; both sides must have same numbers in the scrum. (U-19 and below only – not new, but first time in GMG).
  7. Scrum: For repeated FK offences at scrum, escalate quickly. Same offence #1 = FK; #2 = PK; #3 = PK + Yellow card. (U-19 and below only)
  8. Scrum: “Yes 9” instruction is still in force for youth rugby. The referee should not touch the players. (U-19 and below only).
  9. Scrum: Unintentional wheel of 45 degrees = reset, same put in. Deliberate wheel (any amount) = PK against wheeling team. Max scrum movement = 1.5 meters (FK). (U-19 and below only, same as last year, first time in GMG).
  10. Scrum: cannot deliberately keep the ball in the scrum (FK). (U-19 and below only).
  11. Scrum: Safety is paramount. If you see anything dangerous, stop play immediately. If you think it was deliberate, PK + Admonishment. If you believe a scrum will not be stable due to player size or skill mismatch, order uncontested scrums – do not allow one team to monster the other. (U-19 and below only)
  12. Line outs: Any contact with the jumpers or support players = PK + Admonishment. (U-19 and below only)
  13. Maul: zero tolerance for pulling down the maul. PK (U-19 and below only).
  14. Maul: Arriving players must bind (shoulder to hand) before applying momentum to maul (i.e. no charging). (U-19 and below only).
  15. Foul Play: High Tackle line for youth rugby defined as above the armpit. This includes tackles that start low, but end up high. PK and Admonishment and/or suspension. (U-19 and below only)
  16. Foul Play: no tolerance for high, tip/spear, or no wrap tackles. PK + admonishment and/or suspension. ((U-19 and below only; same law as last year but tolerance level dropped).
  17. Suspensions: Yellow and Red card usage is now required – previously they were optional for below international levels. (U-19 and below only).
  18. Concussion: Hot topic at the moment. If a player shows any signs of concussion, they must leave the field and may not return unless cleared to play by a medical doctor. The referee, and not the coach and/or parent is the deciding authority. (All rugby really, but only specifically called out in U-19 and below GMG)
  19. Serious injuries: If you think a player has a serious injury, stop the game and call for medical assistance. Restart with scrum to possessing team where the play was stopped. (All rugby really, but only specifically called out in U-19 and below GMG).


As a local variant, Rugby Washington have asked referees dealing with their games to have a lowered tolerance towards foul language used by players towards their opponents or the referee. Warn -> PK -> YC if repeated. Not sure how Rugby ID and Rugby OR views this, worth checking if you’re going to manage a youth game in either of those States.

Use commonsense here, if a player has just been flattened in a hard tackle and instinctively swears, don’t worry too much about it. If they’re talking aggressively to the opposition, manage and then penalize. If it’s towards the referee, penalize and admonish.

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