Lineout – win the lineout, win the match
Many professional rugby teams have had specialist kicking coaches as part of their staff for years. One of my former teams mates at Leicester Tigers, Paul Burke, has been on their coaching staff as kicking coach since retiring as a player in 2008. There is nothing unusual about this at all as kicking is a specialist skill. However, more and more teams are adding specialist lineout coaches to their staff. The reasons for this are as follows;
Statistically, more tries come from lineouts than scrums, or any restart. In the Rugby World Cup 2007 there were an average of 31 lineouts per game. That’s roughly 15 lineouts for each team. That number is staggering! That is 15 potential try scoring opportunities in a game providing the team win their own lineout ball. With such a potent attacking weapon it makes perfect sense that lineout coaches are being viewed as integral parts of the coaching staff these days.
The importance of lineout coaches has been highlighted by the recent appointment of another one of my former club colleagues. Olivier Magne, has been employed by the French national rugby team as a specialist lineout coach for the the upcoming World Cup in New Zealand. I played with Olivier during my time at London Irish. He will undoubtedly add to their lineout attacking options. Historically, the French have always had plenty of flair in their back line and have been known to score tries from their own 5 meter line. With a dedicated lineout coach on board, they will be looking to attack from anywhere. This shows the importance they are placing on ensuring they win their own lineouts.
Other international sides that have recently appointed Lineout Coaches include U.S.A. Rugby Eagles and New Zealand. The Eagles have appointed former Newcastle Falcons second row, Luke Gross. New Zealand have switched the role of Graham Henry from Head Coach to Lineout Coach, thus highlighting the magnitude of the position.
Possession of the ball in rugby is obviously key to winning games. These days the margins of winning and losing have become so fine that teams are looking for any possible advantage over each other. Games can be (and have been) won or lost on a single lineout throw. This is why lineout coaches are becoming so very important. Employing lineout coaches as part of the team’s staff is a very useful and worthwhile tactic. However, before ANY team can plan their lineout, they have to ensure that the hooker can throw the ball. This is all too often taken for granted.
Lineout throwing is a specialist skill which needs to be practiced and rehearsed repeatedly.
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby U20s Forwards Coach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for RugbyMag.com and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging on lineoutcoach.com #busy