Clip 1 - 1 October 2019 - Law 18

Touch

It's not a big deal, it's not controversial and the referee is not being blamed, but it is interesting as it is fairly new law, and we have two examples of it from the match between Australia and Wales.

The two incidents concern touch.

**Law definition: Plane of touch: The vertical space rising immediately above the touch line or touch-in-goal line.

Incident 1 - 76 minutes into the match

Wales are penalised at a scrum in the Australian half. Matt To'omua, the Australian flyhalf, takes the kick, aiming for a long touch on the right. The ball flies down the right and is beyond the plane of touch when Tomos Williams leaps from the field of play, slaps the ball back in the field of play before it goes to ground and himself lands in touch.

Play goes on.

Incident 2 - 63 minutes into the match

Dane Haylett-Petty of Australia has the ball near the touch. He runs ahead and then decides to chip, but the ball is flying towards touch off the side of his boot. He goes after it, and, in touch, hops into the air and slaps the ball back into the field of play when the ball has gone beyond the plane of touch but before the ball lands on the ground.

Play goes on.

Should play have gone on in these two cases?

Let's look to the laws which are the match officials' job description.

Law 18.2:The ball is not in touch or touch-in-goal if:
a. The ball reaches the plane of touch but is caught, knocked or kicked by a player who is in the playing area.
b. A player jumps, from within or outside the playing area, and catches the ball, and then lands in the playing area, regardless of whether the ball reached the plane of touch.
c. A player jumps from the playing area and knocks (or catches and releases) the ball back into the playing area, before landing in touch or touch-in-goal, regardless of whether the ball reached the plane of touch.
d. A player, who is in touch, kicks or knocks the ball, but does not hold it, provided it has not reached the plane of touch.

*** Law definition: Playing area: The field of play plus the in-goal areas. The touch lines, touch-in-goal lines and dead-ball lines are not part of the playing area.

Incident 1

Law 18.2 c. applies.

Williams jumps from the playing area and knocks the ball back into the playing area. It does not matter that the ball had crossed the plane of touch. It does not matter where he landed.

It was right for play to go on.

Incident 2

This is a harder one to decide, but......

Law 18.2 c. applies

Haylett-Petty starts in the field of play, his left foot just inside the field of play. His right foot is in the air, and therefore not in touch. He hops, therefore, from the playing area and is airborne when he slaps the ball back into the playing area.

It was right for play to go on.

NB: It is important for an assistant referee to know fully the laws that apply to his functions.

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