The Lineout

One aspect of rugby that has no parallel in gridiron is the lineout. This happens when the ball goes out of play on the sidelines. The two packs of forwards line up perpendicular to the sideline with a small gap between them. The lines must start five meters in from the sideline. The hooker of the team that has possession then throws the ball between the two lines of forwards, generally high in the air. Both teams then try to jump and catch the ball, and feed it back to their scrum half. As with feeding the ball into a scrum, counts and signals are used by the thrower to let his own side know when the ball it coming and where it is being aimed.

A lot of trickery goes on in the lineout, with the attacking players moving back and fore in the line to try to confuse their opponents as to where the ball will be thrown. Lifting your colleagues to help them catch a high ball is legal – and that is also where rugby players learn the skills needed to try to catch field goals as they go over the bar.

It is not necessary to use the entire pack in a lineout. The attacking side decides how many players to use, and the defenders match that. Any excess forwards become extra runners. A common trick play is to call a short lineout and then throw the ball long to be collected by a runner coming up from deep at speed. A less common trick play is to toss the ball quickly to the front of the line and charge up the sideline. In all cases the hooker has to be careful to throw the ball between the two lines of players, not to one side or the other, otherwise a minor penalty results.


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