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Contest and continuity

The contest for possession of the ball is one of Rugby’s key features. These contests occur throughout the Game and in a number of different forms:

• in contact
• in general play
• when play is restarted at scrums, lineouts and kick offs.

The contests are balanced in such a way as to reward superior skill displayed in the preceding action. For example, a team forced to kick for touch because of its inability to maintain the play, is denied the throw-in to the lineout. Similarly, the team knocking the ball on or passing the ball forward is denied the throw-in at the subsequent scrum. The advantage then must always lie with the team throwing the ball in, although, here again, it is important that these areas of play can be fairly contested.

It is the aim of the team in possession to maintain continuity by denying the opposition the ball and, by skillful means, to advance and score points. Failure to do this will mean the surrendering of possession to the opposition either as a result of shortcomings on the part of the team in possession or because of the quality of the opposition defence. Contest and continuity, profit and loss. As one team attempts to maintain continuity of possession, the opposing team strives to contest for possession. This provides the essential balance between continuity of play and continuity of possession. This balance of contestability and continuity applies to both set piece and general play.