Gain line

The gain line is the line on a rugby field you are always attempting to cross. You will never see it. You just have to know where it is.


Where is the line that must be crossed

During a rugby game there are many times when a contest for possession of the ball is taking place. These contests for the ball include scrums, line-outs and breakdowns in play.

In any of these situations the gain line is an imaginary line from one side of the field to the other which passes through the ball and is at right angles to the touch. In effect it defines the area of the field that each team occupies.

Rugby field showing gain line Gain line on a rugby field

Why cross the line

Rugby is a game of conquest. When the game starts or restarts both teams occupy one half of the field and attack the other half. Your aim is to move the ball all the way through your opponents` half and get points for a try by grounding the ball on or over their try line. The more times you can do that, the more likely you are to win.

This rarely happens in one swift movement. Usually the game ebbs and flows. First one team then the other makes ground. You attempt to keep pressuring the opposing team by occupying more and more of their territory until you finally break through and score.

Attackers crossing the gain line buid momentum Building momentum in attack

Crossing the line shows clearly that you are making progress. It also helps support players to flow easily "through the gate" to assist the ball carrier and so building momentum. Defenders have a longer, slower and more difficult route to assist the tacklers at the breakdown, making it increasingly difficult to resist the attack.

How crossing the line helps you win

In general, setting goals or targets and measuring your performance against those goals can help you achieve the results you want.

It`s helpful if you have a series of small goals (get the ball carrier accross the gain line), rather than one big goal (win the game). In this way you know how well your team is performing by whether or not you are meeting your small goals.

If you are not meeting your small goals it shows you need to change tactics or improve your current performance. Having a number of smaller goals means the warning signs tend to show early enough to make changes and still win,

So, keeping in mind that you want to get the ball carrier over the gain line (sometimes called the advantage line) helps you keep focused on gaining ground, pressuring the opposition and building momentum.

Add in a little patience and you are a long way to winning more games!

Crossing the advantage line up the middle

What you choose to do with the ball has a big bearing on whether or not you get the ball carrier over the line.

In all cases your shortest route to get the ball carrier across the line is straight forward. Unfortunately that is also usually the hardest route.

When there is a contest for the ball there is usually a concentration of players. Going straight forward, virtually through the middle of the mass is hard. The ball carrier has to be powerful, tricky or lucky to advance the ball. It does happen.

  • when play breaks down a metre out from the goal line, barging one metre over the advantage line could result in a try - worth giving it a go, particularly with several players combining
  • a linout close to the opposition goal-line is an opportunity for a tricky move - it happens and it works
  • a 5 metre scrum is an opportunity for a push over try, well worth the effort a good example of controlling the ball and gaining ground without an actual ball carrier

Crossing the advantage line wider out

The alternative is to move the ball to places where the defence is weaker and you can breach it more easily or simply run around it.

As you are not allowed to pass the ball forwards you usually pass it backwards to some degree. This means whenever you pass the ball you are passing it to someone who has further to travel to gain ground than you do.

Adding to the problem is that while your team is passing the ball, the other team is rushing towards you and may well stop the ball carrier well before any ground has been gained. You are then losing ground and momentum. In situations like this it may be better to accept the tackle, regroup and start again.

You can see how important it is that you aim to gain ground repeatedly. Ways you do this include

  • employing "running rugby" tactcis of shallow player alignment, looping support and use of cut out passes
  • you have superior individual evasion skills to change running lines suddenly and unexpectedly
  • you use planned moves to hide real intentions, create overlaps and put runners through gaps

Often players are told to "concentrate" - a difficult thing to do if no mention is made of what to concentrate on!.Bear this in mind - concentrate on geting the ball carrier gaining ground by getting them over the gain line.