It's imaginary - but really, really important!

Watch any game of rugby and there’s a good chance you’ll hear ‘gainline’ mentioned more than once.

But if you go looking for evidence of this on a rugby pitch, it’ll be a fruitless pursuit.

Why? Because physically, it doesn’t exist.  Thank goodness, a rugby pitch is busy enough with it’s various markings!

So what is the gainline in rugby?

Well, it’s imaginary. It’s a measurement across the pitch from touchline to touchline, parallel with the halfway line. This comes into play when there is a breakdown in open play, such as a ruck, maul or a scrum.

This is where it become important, because if you make metres for your side beyond where those above mentioned moments occur, there’s territorial gain for your side.

Some players earn the tag of being a ‘gainline monster’ for their ability to make metres for their side when there’s defences lined up to make it particularly difficult to achieve.

Dave Ewers a ‘gainline monster’

A good example of this is former Exeter Chiefs back row, Dave Ewers, who has signed for Ulster.

His former club director of rugby Rob Baxter told RugbyPass in 2021: “He is just a gainline monster for us in probably every area of the game, in defence, attack, set-piece, maul, scrum… if he manages to get himself in one of the key positions towards the front it tends to be a good maul. And again he is a heavyweight carrier and gainline stopper.”

The importance of the gainline was explained by Ross Hamilton in another RugbyPass article.

The former England and Saracens performance analyst said: “To try and describe the effect of this we would say that rugby is an invasion game and winning the gainline battle and achieving gainline success has so many positive repercussions for that team.

“In the simplest terms, to start, it gets you closer to the opposition try line but from here the benefits escalate. Getting over the gainline gives you ‘front foot ball’ a term often used that describes your ability as a team to play quickly whilst the defence is scrambling.”

Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter