Ball in Touch
The decision about whether or not a ball is in touch is a very important one and is often incorrectly called by all.
The area of the law book that covers touch is Law 19 Definitions, and to be brutally honest, is not one of the clearest sections of the law book.
What can go wrong?
Well simply put, you could end up giving the ball to the wrong team, and possibly, in the wrong place.
These definitions are below, I have numbered them for easy reference, however please be aware that they are not numbered within the law book.
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.
- The ball is in touch when a player is carrying it and the ball carrier (or the ball) touches the touchline or the ground beyond the touchline.
- The place where the ball carrier (or the ball) touched or crossed the touchline is where it went into 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.
- 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.
So with the above in mind the following Scenarios are correctly called as touch or play on, the references are related to the definitions above.
A) If a ball, not being carried by a player, touches the touchline or anything/anyone (including players) beyond the touchline, the ball is in touch. (Ref 1)
B) If a player carrying the ball (or the ball itself) touches the touchlines or the ground beyond the touchline, the ball is in touch. (Ref 2)
C) If a player carrying the ball is tacked and the tackler is touch but the ball carrier and/or the ball are not, Play on. (Adverse to Ref 2)
D) If the ball is caught by player who has one or both feet in touch the ball in in touch. (Ref 3)
E) If a player has one foot on the touchline or on the ground beyond the touchline and holds the ball, the ball is in touch. (Ref 4)
F) If the ball is travelling toward the touchline and is caught on or over the touchline but the player has both feet in the field of play, Play on. (Ref 5)
G) If a ball is travelling toward towards the touch line and is caught by a jumping player that lands in touch, the ball is in touch. (Ref 6)
H) If a ball is travelling toward the touchline and is caught by a jumping player that lands with both feet in the field of play, play on. (Ref 6)
I) If the ball is travelling toward the touchline and is knocked or kicked backwards before the ball crosses the plane of the touchline, and the player lands or is in touch, Play on. (Ref 7)
J) If the ball is travelling toward the touchline, crosses the plane of touch and is knocked backwards into the field of play, the ball is in touch. (Ref 1 and Adverse to Ref 7)
K) If the ball is travelling toward the touchline and a player with one foot in touch attempts to catch the ball, but knocks the ball on in to touch, it is a scrum. The ball is only considered in touch if it is caught.
Who's Line out is it?
Now we will deal with the more complicated part, who's line out it is in each of the scenarios:
A) The lineout will be awarded to the team who didn't put the ball into touch.
B) The lineout will be awarded to the non ball carrying team.
The following scenarios assume the catcher is an opponant of the kicker.
D) The line out is to the catchers team because they are deemed to be in touch when the ball was caught.
E) If the player in touch picks up a ball that was rolling (in motion) towards the touchline, then the lineout is awarded to the player who picked it up. If the player in touch picks up a ball that was stationary, they are deemed to have taken the ball into touch and the line out is awarded to their opposition.
G) The lineout is awarded to the catchers team as they are deemed to have caught the ball in touch, if they land in the field of play and then fall into touch with the ball, they have taken the ball into touch and the lineout would be awarded to the kickers team.
J) The ball is already in touch (See Ref 1) so the line out would be to the player who knocked it back.
Other Helpful Documents
The ARU created a document call "Line Ball Your Call" which shows the above but with pictures.
A copy of the booklet is linked below: