On a rugby pitch, the field of play is approximately 70 meters wide and 100 meters long. The ball can only be outside the field of play in two situations:
- Grounding the ball on or over the try line (see lines below) to score a try.
- Taking or sending the ball across the touch line or dead ball line.
In each case, play restarts according to the specific instructions provided by the referee. The type of restart and position of the ball changes depending on how and where the ball leaves the field of play.
Zones in the field of play
The field of play has two zones that beginners will want to familiarize themselves with.
The first zone is the “22” or the area enclosed by the touch lines, the try line, and the 22 meter line (see above). When you are inside your own 22 (the one closest to your try line), the primary goal for the team is to exit this zone as soon as possible. Exiting the 22 reduces the chance that an error or turnover of possession leads to a try or penalty kick.
Your team must gain possession through tackling and rucking, and then run or kick the ball forward to exit the 22. The laws of the game permit kicking the ball directly over the touch line only when you are behind your own 22 meter line. Thus, “kicking for touch” is a common defensive tactic in your own 22. These “clearing” kicks are most effective when the ball travels over both the 22 meter and the 10 meter lines before going into touch.
When you are in your opponents 22, the strategy is to obtain ball possession and then maintain it at all costs. Once you have possession, most coaches will instruct players to advance the ball by passing and then running forward. Coaches often strongly discourage kicking in your opponents 22 until you score a try or earn a penalty kick.
The scrum zone
The scrum is specific formation in rugby where 8 players from each team join together to compete for possession of the ball. They occur after a stoppage in play and the following two conditions are met:
- A minor error occurs within the field of play (such as a forward pass).
- The ball remains within the field of play.
Scrums may not be held closer than 5 meters to the try line or the touch line. Thus, the scrum zone is entirely within the field of play but 5 meters smaller on each side. If an error occurs outside the scrum zone but still within the field of play, the referee will move the scrum to the closest edge of the scrum zone.
Except for those in charge of painting the lines on the playing surface, it is rarely important for beginners to study the exact dimensions and tolerances for a rugby pitch. However, full details are available at World Rugby.