Offside (rugby)

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The offside rule in Rugby Union

Offside rules in Rugby Union are particularly complex to the casual observer. Often the only indication that they have been infringed occurs when the referee blows the whistle. This, therefore, is only a basic attempt to explain offside in the context of rugby union.

In open play, players are offside if they are either in front of a team mate who is carrying the ball, or in front of a team mate who has kicked the ball. Offside players cannot participate in any further part of the game until they become onside again. If offside players do participate in the game, for example by playing the ball or obstructing an opponent (by loitering) then their team will be penalised.

In any other part of play (scrums, rucks, mauls or line-out), players are offside if they are in front of the off-side line. This is an imaginary line parallel to the goals which runs through the hindmost foot of the hindmost player in the ruck/maul/scrum. Any players joining a ruck/maul or scrum from in front of the off-side line is offside and their team will be penalised.

At a lineout only players in the line (normally 7 per team), both scrum halves and both hookers are allowed within 10 metres of the line. The remaining players must be more that 10 metres away from the line or they will be penalised. They may only move after the ball has been caught and the catching player has his feet on the ground.

The offside rule in Rugby League

A defending player is offside if he is closer than 10m to the play-the-ball (or, if the play-the-ball is inside his 10m line, closer to it than the try-line is) when the ball is played. He is also offside if during open play he is closer to the opposition's try-line than the ball.

An attacking player is offside if he is in front of the ball: if he is in front of a ball which is then kicked, he can be put onside if the kicker subsequently moves ahead of him before the ball is caught. If not, he must stand 10m away from the player who catches the ball (as if he were the acting half-back at a play-the-ball) or be penalised.

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