What Is Offside In Rugby?

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Written By Hutch

Rugby is an eventful sport, seething with passion, action, adrenaline, and resolutions. However, for a first-timer, the complexity of the offside principle can be overwhelming. 

This guide will decode the term ‘offside’ in rugby and show you what it means.

What is Offside in Rugby Union?

Universally speaking, you’re offside when you are in front of a teammate who has the ball. Always assume that the ball has an imaginary line that runs across it. To be allowed to get the ball without being offside, you must always be behind the ball (the imaginary line that runs across it). Below are some detailed explanations: 

Offside in Game Scenarios Description
In front of the playRugby players in front of play who are within 10 meters of a player waiting for the ball shouldn’t interfere with the opponent or the ball. Such players are expected to make their way back behind them. 
ScrumThis depends on the foot of the last player in the scrum. For all players not directly involved in the scrum, offside can be determined by the foot of the last player in the scrum. For the scrum half, offside is an imaginary line that runs through the ball.
Ruck or moreRugby players can be offside in this scenario if they join:

  • from the opponent’s side 
  • from the rearmost teammate
  • In front of the ruck or more, but won’t move back to an outside position
  • leave the ruck or more, but don’t move back to an onside position

More Rules On Rugby Offside You Should Know

The rules and scenarios below will shed more light on offside in a rugby contest.

What Places Offside Players Onside

Here are some unique situations that can place a player onside if they were offside previously offside. An offside player can be placed onside if:

  1. An opponent moves more than 10 meters with the ball
  2. An opponent was in contact with the ball without touching the ball. 
  3. A player’s teammate with the ball runs in front of the player and places the player behind the ball.
  4. The offside player retires to the point where the ball was last touched by one of his team.

Accidental Offside

A rugby referee can order a scrum if the referee concludes that the interference of the play by an offside player was accidental.

Catcher Claiming Offside

Suppose a player catches the ball near an office player. The catcher must continue with the game’s normal play unless the offside player interferes with the gameplay. The play will proceed if the catcher intentionally runs into the offside player. 


  • What is the general offside principle in rugby?

 It prohibits players from manipulating their positions in front of the ball.

  • What does onside mean in rugby?

It means that players occupy the right positions in the field. 

  • What happens to a player who is in the offside spot in rugby?

The player opts out of the game. He will earn some penalty points if he interferes.


The offside principle is a significant aspect of rugby. It ensures fairness, dynamism, and strategy. We encourage you to keep up with our posts to solidify your understanding of the offside rule.

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