The object of the game of Touch is for the attacking team to score touchdowns and the defending team to prevent them. The ball may be passed backwards, as in rugby, between onside players of the attacking team, who may in turn run or otherwise move with the ball in an attempt to gain territorial advantage and score.
Defending players prevent the attacking team from gaining a territorial advantage by touching the ball carrier, anywhere on the body, clothing or ball. Either defending or attacking players may initiate the touch.
The game starts with the team that wins the coin toss choosing the direction of play. Play starts with a tap from the middle of the field; the defending team must be back 10 meters for the start of play and after each touchdown.
Games can last from as little as 15 minutes up to 40 minutes in length. On a pitch approximately 70m x 50m and with no natural breaks in play, apart from a brief half time, 40 minutes can seem like forever.
For this reason, teams can consist of up to a maximum of 14 players, 6 on the field at any one time. In mixed Touch this means 3 male and 3 female players on the pitch.
A touchdown, worth 1 point, is awarded when an attacking player places the ball on the ground, on or over the defending teams scoreline and after a team scores, the play begins again with a tap in the middle of the field by the non scoring team.
Touch is a very straightforward game in that once you pick up the basics, progression can be made rapidly towards becoming a good player. There are many subtle nuances to the rules but listed below are the main things to be concerned with at beginner level.
Players of both defending and attacking teams are to use the minimum force necessary to affect the touch. A touch can be made on any part of the person, their clothing or the ball. After a touch has been affected, the player in possession is required to stop, return to the mark where the touch occurred if the mark has been over-run, and perform a Rollball without delay. After being touched 6 times the ball is handed over to the other side.
If a touch is considered to be too strong a penalty will be awarded against the offending team.
The dummy half (the person who receives the ball from the player starting the game) is not allowed to be caught while in possession of the ball. If the dummy half is caught with the ball, possession is handed over to the opposition who will recommence play with a Rollball.
The Rollball is affected by the attacking player positioned on the mark, facing the defenders scoreline, standing parallel to the sidelines, and placing the ball on the ground between their feet. If the ball is rolled more than 1 metre backwards a penalty will be awarded to the opposition.
A Vountary Rollball is when the player is not touched and rolls the ball between their legs, which is not allowed and will result in a penalty to the opposition.
If someone is penalised their team must retreat 10 metres.
A penalty is taken by placing the ball on the ground, letting go of the ball, touching the ball with your foot and picking up the ball, as in the start of play or restart.
A forward Pass is when the ball is passed in front of the player who possessed the ball. In this situation the ruling will be a penalty.
A Touch and Pass is when the person who is touched then passes the ball. Again the ruling will be a penalty.
An attacking player is offside when that player is forward of another attacking player who has possession or who last had possession of the ball.
A defending player is offside when that player has not retreated the required 5 metres for a Rollball or 10 meters for a Penalty or restart at recommencement of play.
For all offside incidents the opposition will be awarded a penalty.
The full Federation of International Touch (FIT) Rules are available here.