Law Discussion: Foot on the line
Twice over the weekend there were incidents which looked similar but had different outcomes. Law guru Paul Dobson looks at them.
Twice over the weekend there were incidents which looked similar but had different outcomes - one when Jesse Mogg of the Brumbies caught a kick by Quade Cooper of the Reds and once when Ben Smith of the Highlanders caught a kick by Chris Noakes of the Blues.
In both incidents the catcher was hurrying across the field to catch the ball. In the first case the ball was given to the Brumbies, in the second case to the Blues.
When Mogg caught the ball his right foot was on the touchline. He caught it and held it.
First of all, the touchline is outside the field of play. It is a part of touch. It has been so for well over a century.
Why is the touchline so called? It is not because touching it makes you in touch. The original line was the one across the middle of the field. Each team started on one side or the other. And so side came to mean team as a result. The goal was extended with a line and when spectators started watching the came, a line was drawn down the length of the field to keep them back. In those days the ball was dead only when it was grounded. If it then went over this line for spectators it was not dead until grounded and so players would run after it and the first one to touch it down was given the throw in. That is why it was called the touch line., which is itself in touch.
A player with a foot on the line is in touch.
Law 19 TOUCH
The ball is in touch if a player catches the ball and that player has a foot on the touchline or the ground beyond the touchline. If a player has one foot in the field of play and one foot in touch and holds the ball, the ball is in touch.
When Mogg caught the ball his right foot was on the touchline.
The ball was out.
Who put it out?
Cooper of the Reds.
And so the throw-in was to the Brumbies.
In the second case, Ben Smith caught the ball.
His right foot is over the touchline.
That foot is in the air.
It is not on the touchline or the ground beyond the touchline.
He is not out.
He catches the ball and then his feet are grounded in touch.
Then he is out.
That is when the ball is in touch and the player who took it into touch was Ben Smith. And so it was not a kick out on the full and the throw-in goes to the Blues who licked the ball.
Even if the ball has crossed the plane of the touchline, a player in the field of play is entitled to catch the ball if he is himself not in touch.
That would be the reasoning behind these two differing decisions.
They tell you that it is not always easy to man the touchline.
By Paul Dobson
The Mogg incident:
The Smith incident: