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Law discussion: In or out at Twickers

Mon, 04 Nov 2013 08:09
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Rugby football is a game of consequences. There was an incident at the touchline in Twickenham that had consequences.

After Quade Cooper of Australia misses a penalty goal, England drop out. Ben Mowen of Australia catches the ball and is tackled by Marland Yarde and Chris Robshaw but Dan Coles of England enters the tackle from the side and is penalised about four metres inside the Australian half.

Matt Toomua of Australia takes the penalty and aims for touch as close to the Australian goal-line as possible, The ball is going into touch about five metres from the line when Mike Brown of England knocks the ball back infield. He starts a counterattack, which, after Michael Hooper has been penalised, ends when Adam Ashley-Cooper tackles Yarde out five metres from the Australian line for a line-out for Australia.

The line-out is long in happening because Scott Fardy is taken from the field on a mobile stretcher, replaced by Ben McCalman, and Ashley-Cooper is bleeding and his place is taken by Bernard Foley.

Australia shorten their line-out and Stephen Moore throws in to James Horwill. Courtney Lawes of England contests the throw and Australia are under pressure to get the ball back. They do and Will Genia kicks. His kick is charged down by tall Tom Wood and skids along the line-out where it strikes McCalman's lower leg. Robshaw gathers it brilliantly and plunges over for the try that makes the score 13-all.

There are replays of what Brown did when the ball was flying towards touch.

He stood there with his toes on the touchline waiting for the ball. When the ball arrived he knocked it back into the field of play without catching it.

In or out?

With his feet on the touchline, Brown was in touch. But that did not stop him from playing the ball legally. A player in touch my play the ball in the field of play provided that he does not hold it. Brown did not hold it.

But that is not the whole story.

Law 19 DEFINITIONS
The ball is in touch when it is not being carried by a player and it touches the touchline or anything or anyone on or beyond the touchline.
If the ball-crosses the touchline or touch-in-goal-line, and is caught by a player who has both feet in the playing area, the ball is not in touch or touch-in-goal. Such a player may knock the ball into the playing area.
If a player jumps and catches the ball, both feet must land in the playing area otherwise the ball is in touch or touch-in-goal.
A player in touch may kick or knock the ball, but not hold it, provided it has not crossed the plane of the touchline. The plane of the touchline is the vertical space rising immediately above the touchline.

This is the whole story. Look at the clause in the last definition which says provided it has not crossed the plane of the touchline.

In fact the ball was over the plane of the touch line when Brown, who was in touch, played it. In that case the first definition kicks in.

That means that it should have been a line-out to Australia five metres from the England line.

Instead it became a line-out five metres from their own line and a try to England. In addition two of their players had gone off injured.

It is a game of consequences.

* Here's the clip!

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