Rugby lineout

Reach for the stars! When the ball goes into touch restarts are often spectacular. The rugby lineout - understand it.

Why a lineout?

The ball may leave the field of play by being kicked, knocked or carried onto or over the touch lines (lines marking the long edges of the field).

When this happens play stops and is restarted with a lineout.

This may happen if you decide to "kick for touch" when you are awarded a penalty. If so, you also get the "throw in" to the lineout.

In all other cases you only get to throw in the ball if the opposition cause the lineout. They get to throw in if you cause the lineout.

Forwards from the two teams form two close parallel lines (1 metre apart) and a player throws in the ball from outside the field of play. It travels above the gap between the two lines of players.

The throwing team has an advantage because they know how high it`s going and where it`s going to land.

Where does a lineout take place?

Generally speaking a lineout takes place at the place where the ball or the ball-carrier goes into touch (crosses either touch line).

When the ball is kicked into touch other factors are considered. For more detail look for the 22 metre line and area of the rugby field.

Throwing, jumping, lifting in a lineout

The hooker usually throws in the ball.

The front of the lineout is positioned on the 5 metre in from touch line and the ball must go at least 5 metres.

There is another line 15 metres in from touch which shows the farthest distance from the touch line that any member of the lineout may stand.

Players jump and/or are lifted to catch or deflect the ball. Even if your team isn`t throwing you`re in with a chance - have a go.

"Locks" are the main jumpers in a lineout although a taller member of the back row sometimes jumps when a throw goes to the back of the lineout for variation.

"Props" , usually the strongest members of the team assist the locks into the air, lifting them by their shorts and keeping them in the air by supporting their legs.

A one metre gap is required between the two lines of players in a rugby lineout and the ball is thrown in above this gap, usually high above the players.

Until you know more, avoid contact with opposition players before the ball is thrown in or when they are off the ground (in the air) - contact will often result in penalties.

After the jump in the lineout

Get possession and you determine what happens next.

You can keep the ball in the forwards so they can use weight and strength to make progress

  • individual players may barge forward carrying the ball if that is possible - you must avoid getting isolated and losing possession of the ball. Avoid contact with team mates isolated in front of you - it would cause a penalty

  • multiple players can combine (form a maul) and carry the ball forward amongst them - avoid situations where the ball carrier or the maul comes into contact with team-mates in front of the ball - they are offside and a penalty will be given

  • multiple players may also combine if the ball has gone to the ground - then it`s a ruck. The players in the ruck can advance the ball by pushing forward, staying bound and keeping the ball at their feet.

You may choose to give the ball to the backs, they will use their speed, strength and evasion techniques to move the ball forwards.

Here is a good example of a rugby lineout being won by the forwards and the ball being given to the backs who go on to score thanks to a fantastic sidestep by Jason Robinson.

If you fail to get possession you must prevent breaks through your part of the lineout, especially if you are close to your own goal-line.

What you do will depend on the advantages/disadvantages your team has in terms of position on the field and on the relative strengths of the backs and forwards grouping of the two teams.

Throw-ins may be taken quickly

Kicking for touch can make huge gains in ground with very little effort.

Because a rugby lineout follows a touch finding kick, the kicking team gets to move all their players forward to where the lineout is to be taken.

To discourage kicking of this type, you (as a defender) are allowed to throw the ball in quickly to your own players waiting in the field of play.

You can even throw it to yourself!

You can only do this when a line-out must take place but before the line-out has actually formed.

You would only do this if their players have not followed the kick quickly enough and you can get an advantage by throwing quickly.

The throwing rules which apply are looser but very similar to those for the formal lineout. This type of throw-in may be used only if...

  • you use the ball that went into touch
  • no another person touches the ball after it goes into touch

"Touch" and rugby lineout rules are long and complex.

For more detailed information on lineouts look at World Rugby Law 18