Wed 9 Oct 2013 | 05:10

Law discussion: offside in touch

Law discussion: offside in touch
Wed 9 Oct 2013 | 05:10

Law discussion: offside in touch


We shall deal with the ball that goes into touch but still results in a penalty against a player ahead of the kicker.

We have had questions on this and perhaps we can go some way to clearing it up. We have tried to do so before. People may have missed it or it may be that it is so rarely applied that its is unknown – rather like foot-up!

Here is an example.

Elgar Watts of the Free State, six metres from his goal-line, kicks down to the touchline on his right. Ahead of him is big Lodewyk de Jager, all the more conspicuous for his size and because he is all on his own. De Jager, somewhere near the Free State 10-metre line, moves forward as the ball flies over his head and into touch. Standing in touch is Damian De Allende, the Western Province centre. He catches the ball about nine metres in side the Western Province half, and immediately throws in quickly to Gio Aplon of Western Province. De Jager heads for Aplon.

The referee waits for advantage and then offers Western Province the option of scrum where Watts kicked the ball and a penalty near the Free State 10-metre line. They choose the latter.

Let's look at the law governing offside, Law 11.

In general play a player is offside if the player is in front of a team-mate who is carrying the ball, or in front of a team-mate who last played the ball. Offside means that a player is temporarily out of the game. Such players are liable to be penalised if they take part in the game.

De Jager was in an offside position because he was in front of his team-mate Watts when Watts played the ball by kicking it.

(a) A player who is in an offside position is liable to sanction only if the player does one of three things:
• Interferes with play or,
• Moves forward, towards the ball or
• Fails to comply with the 10-Metre Law (Law 11.4).
A player who is in an offside position is not automatically penalised.
A player who receives an unintentional throw forward is not offside.
A player can be offside in the in-goal.
(b) Offside and interfering with play. A player who is offside must not take part in the game.
This means the player must not play the ball or obstruct an opponent.
(c) Offside and moving forward. When a team-mate of an offside player has kicked ahead, the offside player must not move towards opponents who are waiting to play the ball, or move towards the place where the ball lands, until the player has been put onside.

It does not say anything about the ball's going into touch, something like unless other ball goes into touch. It just says that he must not move forward.

De Jager certainly moved forward. He did so before the ball went into touch and kept on moving forward when De Allende caught it and when De Allende threw it in and when Aplon caught it.

In terms of the law De Jager is liable to a penalty and should be penalised for his actions – not just in the worn place but doing the wrong thing.

But what about when the ball went into touch? The ball is dead.

Dead: The ball is out of play. This happens when the ball has gone outside the playing area and remained there, or when the referee has blown the whistle to indicate a stoppage in play, or when a conversion kick has been taken.

The Playing Area is the field of play and the in-goal areas. The touchlines, touch-in-goal lines and dead ball lines are not part of the playing area.

This ball went outside the playing area but it did not remain there. It was immediately made live again by a quick throw-in,

When the ball goes into touch, as this one did, there are two ways that it can be made live again

Kicked into touch, the ball is dead. It is brought to life again by being thrown into a line-out or thrown in from touch before a line-out can be formed, i.e. quickly.

A line-out is a formal way of restarting the game – a set piece. Players are gathered from wherever they are, new formations are taken up and new offside lines formed. It is not a continuation of play but a restart of play.

The quick throw-in, which is not a line-out, is governed by laws of its own. The only similarity is that the ball must be thrown in at least five metres and not forward. The laws governing the quick throw-in require that it be the same ball that went into touch, played only by the player who throws it in quickly. It is not seen as a stoppage the way a line-out is. The quick throw-in is seen as a continuation of play. The ball did not remain in touch.

De Jager remains in an offside position and because he keeps going forward and putting pressure on Western Province players he is offside and taking part. It is right to penalise him, as the referee did in this case.

If a player finds himself in front of a team-mate who kicks the ball ahead – and normally a player knows that much – the least he should do is stand still. It would be even safer if he moved back.

It is a way of playing that one would have thought could be directly and simply stated in the Laws of the Game but it is not. Nor is it in any of the IRB's clarifications/rulings. This probably because it is unnecessary, as all that is needed is to apply the law as it exists.

But there is this: It deals with "Offside when the ball is kicked to touch thereby preventing quick throw ins" and implies that it is implied in the law that a player in an 'offside' position and preventing a quick throw-in he should be penalised even if the ball went into touch.

It is all part of a recent IRB initiative to create space through applying the offside law relating to kicks – an effort to encourage counterattack and thereby to make kicking a less attractive option.

PV: 13
Law Discussion: Offside In Touch | Rugby365