The offside rule is often the cause for much confusion amongst young players and spectators alike. Simply put, it puts restrictions on the areas in which players can be or make a move. Its purpose is to allow space for players to attack and defend fairly. With an understanding of the rule’s function, it is easier to understand the technical elements of this rule.

Below are two applications of the offside rule:


If a player is in front of a teammate who is in possession of the ball, or a teammate who has just played the ball, they will be offside for these reasons:

  • If they try to play the ball
  • If they do not retreat within 10 meters of an opponent waiting for the ball
  • If they move towards the opponent or towards where the ball has landed without returning to an onside position.


The offside line is the line of the ball when it has been fed into the scrum. This means that scrumhalves cannot go beyond that “line” until the ball has been entered into the scrum by the opposing number nine. For all the other players, the offside line is “imaginary” – it is drawn through the “hindmost” foot of the last scrum player. The scrum-half on the opposing team has to wait to make a tackle until the ball is out of the scrum.


The offside is a complex rule, with many applications aside from the ones mentioned above, and far-reaching game influences. The best way for players to avoid ending up in an offside position is for them to understand the rules of the game and to always focus on where the ball is in relation to their position. An offside player usually will not be penalised if he makes an effort to get back onside without obstructing ga