Law Clarification Request - Touch & Lineout

Robert Burns

, Referees in Canada, Webmaster
Staff member
Nov 10, 2003
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The members seek clarification of Law 19 in relation to the ball being in touch when it is played by a player in the air.

The only law reference is in the Law 19 definitions:-

[LAWS]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.[/LAWS]

(1) Does it matter where the player jumps from?
(2) Does catching assume the player retains the ball until he lands?
(3) If a player plays the ball other than by catching it (i.e. a tap down, similar to that performed at a lineout), does it make a difference?

If the answer to (1) is No, then:-
(A) if a player jumps from in Touch, plays the ball after it has crossed the plane of touch, but manages to land with both feet in the playing area, has the ball deemed to have been in touch?

(B) if a player jumps from the field of play and catches the ball before it breaks the plane of touch, and then lands in touch still holding the ball, the ball is in touch. Was the catching player responsible for putting the ball in to touch?

(C) if a player jumps from the playing area, catches & passes the ball, or taps the ball backwards infield, before the ball or player breaks the plane of touch, and then the player lands in touch, has the ball been in touch?

If the answer to (1) is Yes, then defining the player as in touch according to the spot immediately below him when he plays the ball means all the other criteria in the Definitions can be directly applied. To avoid complications such as outstretched arms etc the Definition could say: "A player in the air is not in touch if his torso is entirely over the playing area; he becomes in touch when his torso breaks the plane of touch."

A further question arises from use of the word "crossed", also in the definitions:

[LAWS]A player in touch may kick or knock the ball, but not hold it, provided it has not crossed the plane of touch.[/LAWS]

Does this imply that the whole of the ball must cross the plane, or is it intended to be equivalent to "has not broken the plane"? The latter meaning would be consistent with a ball on the ground, which merely needs to touch the inside edge of the line for it to be deemed in touch.