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Rugby Offside Explained

You may have hear the term ‘offside’ in rugby (and other sports), but aren’t sure how it works. We’ve got you covered. Today we’ll explain the offside rule in rugby, answer some common question, and also talk about how it compares to offside in other sports, like soccer.

What is offside in Rugby?

Offside in rugby is a rule that prevents players from being in front of the ball carrier or ahead of the ball when it is kicked forward. The offside rule is designed to ensure that the game is played fairly and that attacking players do not gain an unfair advantage.

The two types of offside

Offside at the scrum

When a team loses possession of the ball at a scrum, the opposing team’s players must remain behind the back foot of the scrum until the ball has been played. If a player is in front of the back foot, they are offside.

Offside in general play

When a player kicks the ball, all players on their team who were in front of them when the ball was kicked must be behind the ball or behind an imaginary line drawn across the field from the point where the ball was kicked. If a player is in front of this line or the ball, they are offside.

What happens when a player if offside in rugby?

If a player is offside during open play, the opposing team may choose to kick the ball for touch and gain territory. Alternatively, they may opt to take a shot at goal by kicking for the posts.

If a player is offside during a set piece such as a scrum or lineout, the opposing team is given the option of either taking a penalty or choosing to have a scrum or lineout instead.

In addition, if a player continues to be offside repeatedly, the referee may issue a yellow card, which means that the player will be sent off the field for ten minutes.

Can you tackle from an offside position in rugby?

No, tackling from an offside position is not allowed in rugby. If a player is offside, they are not allowed to tackle an opponent who is in possession of the ball or interfere with play in any way. If they do so, the referee will award a penalty to the opposing team.

This is because being offside gives a player an unfair advantage over their opponents and interferes with the flow of the game.

Can an offside player be put onside?

Yes, an offside player can be put onside in rugby. There are several ways in which this can happen:

  1. A teammate who was behind the offside player when the ball was last played, moves ahead of the offside player, thereby putting them onside.
  2. The player who was offside retreats behind the offside line. Once they have done this, they are considered to be onside and can participate in the game again.

It’s important to note that if an offside player attempts to play the ball or interferes with play while still offside, they will be penalized by the referee. So, it’s crucial for players to quickly take action to get back onside and avoid committing any further infractions

Exceptions to the offside rule

There are certain situations where offside will not be called in rugby. These exceptions are:

  1. When a player is put onside by an opponent: If an opponent passes the ball backward, intentionally or unintentionally, the offside player becomes onside again.
  2. When a player is returning from an offside position: If a player has been offside but then returns to an onside position before becoming involved in the play, they are not offside.

Accidental offside

Accidental offside is a situation that can occur in rugby when a player “cannot avoid being touched by the ball or by a team-mate who is carrying the ball.” 

For example, if a teammate passes the ball forward and it accidentally hits a player who was in front of the passer, that player will be deemed to be accidentally offside. The referee will then award a scrum to the non-offending team at the spot where the accidental offside occurred.

The Rugby Law dictating offside

The rugby law that governs offside is Law 10, which is titled “Offside and onside in open play.” This law sets out the conditions for when a player is deemed to be offside during open play. The law states that a player is offside if they are in front of a teammate who last played the ball, or if they are in front of a teammate who kicked the ball and did not retrieve it.

The law also sets out the consequences for being offside, including the awarding of a penalty to the opposing team. It is important for players and coaches to have a clear understanding of Law 10 and the offside rule in order to play the game in a fair and safe manner.

Offside in rugby vs soccer

Both popular sports have an offside rule. They rules may have the same name an some similarities, but they are more different than they are alike. Let’s get into the similarities first.

Similarities between rugby and soccer offside

In both sports, the offside rule is used to prevent attacking players from gaining an unfair advantage over the defending team.

Being offside in both soccer and rugby results in a free kick or penalty being awarded to the opposing team.

Differences between offside in soccer and rugby

In rugby, the offside line is dictated by the where the ball is when a player kicks it. In Soccer, the offside line is dictated by the second to last defender when the second-last defender when the ball is passed to them by a teammate.

So in soccer, a player can be ahead of the ball when it is kicked, as long as they’re not passed the second to last defender at that moment. But in rugby the player must be behind the ball when it is kicked by a teammate.

Wrapping up

To recap, the rugby offside rule is designed to prevent players from gaining an unfair advantage by being in front of their teammates who last played the ball or kicked it forward without retrieving it. Being offside in rugby can result in penalties for the offending player and their team, and disrupt the flow of the game. Understanding the offside rule is crucial for players and coaches to ensure a fair and safe game.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of a key rugby rule.

Thanks for reading!