Mastering the Rugby Union Offside Law (Rugby has laws not rules)

Rugby union has a long-standing tradition and an even longer set of laws. One law that’s important to understand is the offside law. In this guide, we’ll go over the specifics of what constitutes an offside in rugby union and how it can affect play on the field.

Understand the basic law of offside in rugby union.

World rugby tells us succinctly in Law 10

The game is played only by players who are onside.

World Rugby, Law 10.

The basic law of offside in rugby union is that a player must be onside at the moment of receiving a ball or interfering with play, i.e. tackling. This means that when the ball is passed, kicked or carried, a player cannot run ahead of the person with the ball, except for a teammate who can legally support them. If an offside player then catches the ball, or interferes with play in anyway, they are liable to be penalized. To avoid this player must remain behind their opponents and ahead of their own team-mates before playing the ball.

Familiarize yourself with the rules regarding when players become active and when they are deemed inactive in a match.

It is important to understand when players become active in a match, as this has an impact on the offside law. Essentially, a player becomes active when they are involved in the game; an example being they anticipate a pass, take up a position or make any sort of play. On the contrary, if they remain motionless and do nothing with the ball, then by default they will be deemed inactive and therefore not subject to the offside law. Knowing how to identify and differentiate between passive and active participants is key in understanding and correctly implementing this rule.

The Major Difference Between Onside and Offside Players in Rugby Union.

The major difference between onside and offside players in rugby union is their positioning relative to the ball. Onside players are those who are behind the ball, while offside players are those who have moved past the rearmost feet of their team’s most forward player, or moved towards an opposition player with the intention of making any sort of play. It is also important to note that a player does not become offside until they become actively involved in play – this includes crossing nearer to the opponents’ goal-line than two opponents, as well as attempting to gather or kick the ball.

Understanding the Offside Law.

Understanding the offside law in rugby union is essential if you wish to become an expert. Generally, a player is deemed offside if they are forward of the ball or if they have fetched the ball or moved closer to goal than two of their opponents. This can also apply to players who join from behind when that number was already ahead of them – however, this only occurs when immediate play is taking place.

Understand the Terminology.

It’s important that you understand the terminology used in describing the offside law in rugby union. Knowing words such as ‘offside line’, ‘advantage’, and ‘protection of space’ will help you understand the rule clearly and become a great source of knowledge for your friends. Knowing these terms means you can also spot infringements which would otherwise go unnoticed.

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