The aim of the game is for one team to score more points (touchdowns) than the other. An official game lasts for two halves of 20 minutes, however during one-day tournaments the length of individual matches is often shortened due to the amount of games being played over the course of the day.
Each team has six players on the field. In the so called ‘Sub-Box’ there are further players up to a total of eight. The players substitute for one another regularly in short intervals over the course of the match.
The team in possession of the ball has a maximum of six attempts to score, that is to say they may receive a maximum of six ‘touches’. When the attacking team has been ‘touched’ six times the opposing team gains possession of the ball.
A ‘touch’ occurs when the player in possession of the ball is touched by an opposition (defending) player. This touch can take place on any part of the attacking player’s body and even their clothing. The touch can either occur through the defending player actively initiating the touch or through the attacking player also seeking to initiate the touch. The touch should be carried out softly, as hard touches are penalised by the referee. The ball is otherwise not thrown, but rather passed. This means that the player has the ball in both hands and moves the ball with momentum from one side, across their body and passes the ball on the other side of the body.
But what happens after a touch is made? Every time that a player in possession is touched by an opposition defender, or when they themselves instigate the touch, two things happen:
1. The touched attacking player must perform what is called a ‘roll ball’. Here they place the ball directly on the floor and step over it. This of course takes place on the spot where the touch occurred. A teammate collects the ball as ‘Active Half / Dummy Half’ and begins with the next phase of play.
2. The defending team must immediately after a touch retreat a minimum of five meters from the position of the touch. This position then becomes ‘onside’. In contrast a position less than 5 meters from the roll ball is ‘offside’. The attacking team can then again run forwards and play until the next touch is made. As the defending team retreats 5 meters after every touch, the attacking team is given the opportunity to win more space on the pitch.
The attacking team is always allowed to move into the opposition’s space and half of the field, and to play with the ball as much as they think necessary. However when attacking, the player in possession of the ball may not pass the ball forwards to their teammates, but rather only backwards. It can also be a tactic for the attacking team to initiate the touch, as when the touch is made the defending team must automatically go back five meters.
The team not in possession of the ball defends their score line from the attacking team. They do this by touching those players from the opposing team who have the ball. The defending team therefore aim to quickly complete their set of six defensive touches in order to themselves get possession of the ball and to have the opportunity to attack. The aim of the attacking team is to place the ball on the ground behind the score line. This can be made easier by forcing the defending team back or to the side and making enough space on the field for this to be done within a maximum of five touches.
There are also of course penalties and punishments. For example if the attacking team loses the ball then they must give over the ball to the opposition team. The same applies if either team breaches one of the rules of the game. That is for example the case when a so-called forward pass occurs, or when a player passes the ball after they have already been touched (touch and pass). A team can lose possession of the ball for the following reasons: when the ball falls to the ground (drop ball), when a player in possession of the ball runs over the side-line (out), and when an attacking team is touched six times and has therefore used up all their attempts to attack.
The attacking team can also receive six new touches when the defending team commits a foul. The attackers receive this new set of six touches most often when the defensive team is offside, meaning that after a touch was completed the defenders failed to go back the specified five meters.
The game itself begins with a tap. For this the ball is placed on the ground and the player taps the ball forward a short distance with their foot, they then proceed to pick the ball up and begin to play. A tap is also carried out after a penalty is awarded. Otherwise, when the ball is lost, the previously described roll ball gets the game going again.
The Playing Field
The playing field is 50 meters wide by 70 meters long. At the international level, Touch is played on grass. Around the field there is space for substitute players and trainers. Behind the scoring line is an area 5 meters in length known as the “Touchdown Zone”- Players can score inside this area. Plastic markers are typically placed on the corners of the field in order to delimit the playing field, and to better distinguish the specific lines on the playing field. During competition play, the lines of the playing field are typically drawn with chalk.
The game is played with an egg-shaped ball, one size smaller than the standard Rugby ball size (Size 4 for adults).
If you would like to buy a ball, they can easily be found online, however they are also available can also be purchased via Touch Deutschland!
Referees and Sideline Referees
In a competitive game of Touch there are three referees present at one time – one on the pitch and two on the sidelines. One of the main aspects of refereeing a game of Touch is making sure that the defense retreats 5 meters after every touch to an “on-side” position. Using a whistle and voice commands the referee makes sure that the rules of the game are followed and will award penalties for forward passes, when there is a ‘hard touch’ or when an ‘incorrect rollball’ is played. The two sideline referees help out the referee on the pitch by looking out for forward passes, making sure that players sub correctly, etc.
A referee will also often support new players on the pitch by giving them clear instructions and by explaining the rules to them.
If you would like to know anymore about the rules of the game, these can be sent to you on request.
Sports gear and Shoes
Touch can be played in normal sports clothing. At a Touch tournament teams will generally play in shorts and a Touch shirt, which are either t-shirts or sleeveless singlets. On the back of the playing shirts is the playing number, at least 16cm in height so as be clearly visible to the referee.
As a Touch game is usually played on grass, touch boots are studded to give players better grip when running on this surface. The studs have to be made of plastic. Metal is not allowed for safety reasons. Football or hockey boots are also suitable for a game of Touch however they should be reinforced on the inner sole of the heel to give the player extra support when running.