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The Rules


Abbreviated Playing Rules

  • Game duration: Two 20-minute halves with a 5-minute half time. Local leagues can play to their own times, however, so confirm with the tournament organiser
  • Play starts and restarts at the centre with a “tap”. This is performed by moving the ball on the ground with the foot, free from the hands, and then picking it up. Penalties are performed using the same procedure. On both a re-start and penalty the defending team must retreat at least 10 metres
  • Six players are allowed on the field at any one time, with up to eight substitutes off the field. Reserves can be continuously substituted at any time from one side of the field
  • A try is scored by grounding the ball on, or behind, the try-line. One point is awarded for a try
  • A touch is legitimate and minimal contact between a player in possession and a defending player. A touch includes contact on the ball, hair or clothing and may be made by a defending player or by the player in possession. The referee is the sole judge of the touch and has the discretion to overrule a claim (so play to the whistle!). An attacking player may affect the touch by deliberately touching the opposition
  • When touched, the player in possession must place the ball on the ground at the exact point of the touch. Play is re-started by stepping over the ball. It can be controlled with a hand or foot. This is known as a rollball. The ball may not roll more than a metre. A player may not perform a rollball unless touched
  • The player picking up the ball (the half) may run, but if touched a changeover occurs. The half may not score and a changeover (rollball) will be awarded if this occurs
  • After six touches with no score, possession changes. The attacking team begins play with a rollball
  • During a roll ball, all defending players must retire to the onside line set by the referee, 7m back from the roll ball. The defending team cannot move forward until play restarts, nor interfere with play while retreating. A restart occurs the moment the ball is tapped (for a tap) or the half touches the ball (for a roll ball). Players may not delay the game by deliberately delaying a roll ball
  • If the attacking player, when making a quick start, is touched by an offside defender, the referee may call for play to continue to see if an advantage can be gained or give a penalty tap
  • When a roll ball is taken within 7 metres of the try line the defending players must retreat with both feet to behind their scoreline before they can make the touch. If a player is touched in the in-goal area before grounding the ball the touch counts and play is restarted on the 7-metre line
  • If the ball is dropped or if a player crosses the sideline before being touched, a change of possession will occur
  • A penalty is awarded for infringements including: forward pass, offside play, performing a roll ball over the mark, claiming a touch when none was made, using more than minimum force to make a touch, interfering with the roll ball and passing the ball once touched. When a penalty is awarded, the referee will give the mark where the tap must be taken and set the onside line for the defence (at least 10m). Play cannot re-start until the referee is ready
  • If the defending team unsuccessfully intercepts the ball or it is intentionally knocked down, the attacking team restarts their possession (‘six again’) with a zero touch. If the interception is successful then the next touch of the ball carrier will be 'zero touch'
  • No obstruction, excessive contact, verbal abuse or foul play will be tolerated – the referee is sole judge. A penalty will be awarded in such cases and players can be removed from the field. Serious or continual foul play of any nature will result in the player being sent off without a replacement

Please note that these rules are necessarily simplified and should only be used at grass-roots level to introduce new players to the game. If you are looking to referee at tournaments or develop your skills as a ref, please make sure you read the full FIT rules in the link below.

CLICK HERE to download the full rulebook (5th edition).

Acting Half, Dummy Half or just Half The player who receives the ball following the rollball

Dump or Quickie A quick rollball to further attacking opportunities from the ensuing play. At levels above beginners these constitute all touches/roll balls

Fade or Drag An angled run forwards and towards the wing/sideline in an attempt to drag the defenders sideways and potentially open up gaps on the open side

Link The position on the field between the middles and the wings (the second player from the sideline)

Middle The position on the field in the middle of the players (the third player from either side line)

Open Side The side of the ball carrier with the most number of players

Phantom A defensive player claiming a touch when no touch had in fact been made. Frowned upon by the vast majority of players. A yes/no call is also regarded as a phantom. If spotted a phantom call results in a penalty, forced sub or sin bin.

Re-Align When an attacker moves back into an onside position (behind the ball) after passing or making a touch.

Rollball Must be performed once a player in possession is touched by the opposition or after a turnover. The rollball is performed by placing the ball on the mark, and either rolling the ball backwards, or stepping forward over it. The ball is picked up by another player on the attacking team (see acting-half). Above a beginner level, players usually never actually roll the ball along the ground

Ruck Any attacking move intended to promote the ball down the field rather than specifically result in a touchdown

Scoop or Scoot An attacking move following the dump, whereby a player runs from the half position in an attempt to get past the defensive line

Short Side The side to the ball carrier with the least number of players

Snap To beat (ie run past) an opponent by changing direction suddenly

Squeeze: a type of zone defence used to force attacking players to move the ball to the wings to gain and/or take advantage of an overlap (by which time the defence should have had time to re-position itself)

Switch or Cut An attacking move where the ball player passes to a receiver in the direction that the receiver has come from, as they run angled lines that cross over with the receiver running behind the ball carrier

Touch The main defensive tactic in the game of Touch, similar to a tackle in some other codes of football. It forces the attacking team to stop and restart play (see rollball). A touch is performed by the defensive team on any part of the body or clothing of the current ball carrier for the attacking team, or the ball itself. At the moment of a touch, it is customary (but not mandatory) for the defensive player who is performing the touch to shout "Touch", which alerts both the attacking and defensive teams and the referees that the player has been touched

Wing The position on the field at the side of the field (the player next to the sideline)

Wrap A variation on the switch move involving where the ball carrier passes after the receiver as run behind them to the side that the receiver is running to

I've never played Touch - is it hard to learn?

Touch Rugby is very simple to play. 2-3 games will see you master the basic skills and the more you play the better you will become. As long as you are keen to get involved you will develop the skills to enjoy yourself on the field

How fit do I have to be to play?

People of all shapes, sizes, ages and fitness levels play in social and competitive leagues, you chose the level you wish to play. You will find that over the season your personal fitness levels will increase, Touch Rugby is a great way to exercise, improve cardio vascular fitness and help to burn excess fat

What do I need to play?

All you need to get started is a willingness to learn and have some fun. You can start by simply getting a bunch of friends together, a set of the rules and a ball. The sport is renowned for its social appetite. For those of you that want to really get into the game, there are specialist shoes made for Touch that can give you that extra grip when you need it

How much does it cost to play?

Playing socially with your friends costs nothing! Club membership and tournament costs vary throughout the country, and if you want to play in an England Touch competition you have to be a full member of the Association, which costs £20 per year

How long are matches?

The international standard is 40 mins (2 x 20 mins). However each competition can set its own match length

How big is the playing area?

The international standard is 70m x 50m

How many people play in a team?

The international standard is 14 players per team, 6 on the field at any one time with up to eight substitutes. who interchange at random. 10-12 players is a good number to allow for that much needed rest during the game

What is the ratio of male to female in a Mixed team?

The international standard is a minimum of 3 women and a maximum of 3 men on the field. This may vary at Clubs due to local conditions so please check with the Club where you wish to play

How does the scoring work?

Single points are scored for each try scored in most competitive games although local competition rules may differ

If I haven't played before can I just come down and watch?

Of course! Feel free to come down to any of the venues and check out how the game is played. Simply turn up at any of the venues where Touch is being played, you’ll find people are really friendly and happy to chat about the game to you

How far can I go with Touch?

If you have the skill and determination you can represent your country in National and International competitions, with the Touch World Cup being the ultimate test of the World Champs

Is there an international governing body?

Yes, the Federation of International Touch. In Europe we also have the European Federation of Touch

We are England Touch

Some space. A ball. Your mates. A game
Your team. A competition. Maybe a trophy or two
Work hard. Develop skills. Get selected. Represent your nation
Volunteer time. Pick up a whistle. Make a difference
This is England Touch. Pick up a ball and play!