World Rugby Law Clarification 1 – 2021 Relating to Law 3.6 & Definitions
When a referee whistles a penalty or a free kick, is the ball considered dead, in which case, is a player replacement possible?
Clarification of the designated members of the Rugby Committee
There are two issues which must both happen for the replacement to occur:
The ball is dead
The Referee gives permission
The award of an FK or PK does not in itself mean the ball is dead and players may tap and go. However, sometimes when an FK or PK occurs alongside an incident such as an injury the Referee will make the ball dead and allow the replacement. On that basis, sometimes a replacement may occur after a FK or PK but not always. The referee needs to make the ball dead.
The definition of dead is: The ball is dead when the referee blows the whistle to stop play or following an unsuccessful conversion.
The crucial law here is 3.6 whereby: Replacements are made only when the ball is dead and only with the permission of the referee. Clarification 2 from 2012 is relevant here