What Is A Lineout In Rugby?

FUKUOKA, JAPAN – SEPTEMBER 26: Dean Budd of Italy and Tyler Ardron of Canada battle for the line out ball during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group B game between Italy and Canada at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium on September 26, 2019 in Fukuoka, Japan. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Rugby is a unique game. It has lots of strange rules and phases of play with quirky names. One of those unusual parts of rugby is known as a lineout. In this article will explore all things lineouts so after devouring this piece you will be the resident expert on this aspect of a rugby match.

What is a lineout in rugby?

A lineout is the phase of play in rugby when a team throws the ball back into play after it has gone out of bounds over the touch line. Typically, the two sides’ forwards will line up and the hooker will throw the ball down the middle while the players leap in the air and try to secure possession.

Britain Rugby Union – Bristol Rugby v Bath Rugby – Aviva Premiership – Ashton Gate – 26/2/17 Bath’s Elliott Stooke in action during a lineout Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Andrew Couldridge Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

A lineout is what occurs when the ball goes out of bounds in rugby. When the ball goes out of bounds the play and stops and for play to resume the ball needs to be thrown back into play. The act of throwing the ball back into play is known as a lineout.

What usually happens during a lineout is the forward pack from each side will line up in two long vertical lines. They will leave a gap between each other. The hooker of the side whose lineout it is will stand on the sideline and throw the ball in the air between the two lines of forwards. The ball must be thrown straight. 

While the ball is in the air a player will jump and as they are jumping their teammates will lift by their legs to give them extra height. The opposing jumping players will attempt to take possession and win the lineout for their side. Players are not allowed to tackle each other while they are in the air but they bump each other if they are making a play on the ball.

Once the ball has been thrown in from the lineout the game is now live and play will continue.

Locks are on average 6ft 6 are lineout jumping specialists and are usually a team’s number one option at the lineout. The blindside flanker and the number 8 will also be back up lineout jumping options while the props are specialist lifters. The openside flanker is typically hanging around the back of the lineout ready to pounce on any loose ball.

The lineout is an incredibly important phase of rugby because if you do not have a strong lineout opposing teams will continually kick the ball out of touch and then steal the ball from your lineout putting them in great field position to attack your try line. Due to this teams will spend hours perfecting their lineout.

Rugby teams will also use encrypted codes to call out lineout throws in an effort to prevent the opposing side from understanding where the ball is being thrown and to which player. The lock is usually the player in charge of calling the lineout and they will instruct the hooker where the ball needs to be thrown to.

Who Takes The Lineout In Rugby?

In rugby the side that did not force the ball over the touch line takes the lineout unless the side kicking for touch has been awarded a penalty. For example in open play if team A kicks the ball out then team B will take the lineout. The hooker is usually the player who throws the ball in from the lineout.

ROME, ITALY – NOVEMBER 11: Codie Taylor of the New Zealand All Blacks throws the ball into the lineout during the captains run at Stadio Olimpico on November 11, 2016 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

In rugby the team that did not result in the ball crossing the touch line and going out of bounds takes the lineout. However, there is one exception. When a rugby team is awarded a penalty they have the option of kicking the ball if the ball goes across the touch line they maintain possession and take the lineout.

When a lineout is called it is nearly always the hooker who throws the ball in. Throwing the ball in during a lineout is one of the hooker’s specialised roles. They spend hours perfecting their throwing skills, enabling them to throw the ball straight, both long and short distances and with a quick spiral.

How Many Players Are In A Rugby Lineout?

A lineout in rugby must have a minimum of two players from each side. A lineout can have a maximum of 13 players from each side. The attacking side can choose the number of players and the defending side must match, so hypothetically a lineout can have anywhere from 4 to 26 players.

In a lineout the attacking side can choose to have 2 to 13 players in a lineout. The defending side must match the numbers of players the attacking side chooses. However, these small or large lineouts are incredibly rare. 

Typically, a lineout will have between 5 to 7 players in it. Usually the entire forward pack minus the hooker who throws the ball in will be in the lineout. Some teams will occasionally use a short lineout and remove 1 to 3 forwards and place them in the backline giving their team some extra ball running options.

When Can You Take A Quick Lineout?

In rugby you can take a quick lineout before the lineout is set. A lineout is set when a defending player is at the mark of the lineout. A player can only take a quick lineout if they use the same ball that went out of touch and if that ball hasn’t come into contact with any other players while out of bounds.

Rugby lineouts don’t always end up looking like your typical vision of two forward packs lining up, a hooker throwing the ball in and players being lifted as they leap in the air to snatch the ball.

In rugby there is a form of lineout known as a quick lineout. A quick lineout is where the ball goes across the touch line and a player throws the ball into himself or to a nearby player without the opposing side there to contest. During a quick lineout the ball does not have to be thrown straight.

A quick lineout throw can only occur if there are no defending players close to the mark of the lineout. If they are the referee will call for a traditional lineout and force the two sides to set their lines.

For a quick lineout to be legal the player throwing the ball in must use the same ball that went over the touch line. The ball can not have touched other players. For example a player who is out of bounds can not throw the ball to another player who then throws the ball into play. The player throwing the ball must be out of bounds when he throws the ball into play.

Here Is An Example Of A Quick Lineout Gone Very Wrong:

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