This is the first in the series of articles based on my video “8 Steps That will make Your Lineout Function.” Each blog will focus on one of the steps and how they combine to make this set piece operate successfully.
First up is Step 1 The Lineout Call.
This is such a fundamentally important part of the lineout that without the correct call nothing else matters. So what is the correct call? We know what we want to do in certain areas of the pitch in the perfect world. So the call is going to keep that in mind but it has to take into account what the defence is showing us, what picture they are showing us, where do they intend to defend.
Who calls the lineout?
The call has to be made by someone who is knowledgeable about lineouts, who understands what we are trying to do, and who understands where the next play is going for the team. The chain of command in terms of calling lineouts starts with the main decision maker (usually the No 10), then the 9 who tells the caller what kind of ball the backs want on the next phase. Then, the lineout caller calls the lineout based on the criteria mentioned above.
Ideally the lock jumping in the middle of the lineout calls the lineouts. This is because he is in the middle of the lineout and has the best view of the space all around him.
Which lineout call do you chose?
Don’t call lineouts for the sake of it. The opposition can’t defend everywhere. It’s important to understand that and call to the space. If the back is open, throw there until the opposition defend that space. Then throw to where the new space is. Remember, the first priority of the lineout is to secure possession.
The lineout call will be determined by the location on the pitch and whether or not the backs want the ball. Teams usually have three areas to throw the ball – front, middle or back. Each team will have their own unique lineout calling system. The calls are typically made by the lock in the middle of the lineout.
What the professionals say
Second Row George Robson explains that those three options can be reduced based on the abilities of the pack.
“You have to work with what you’ve got and recognise there could be plays you can’t do, if you have a hooker who can’t throw to the back for example. You work to the strengths of the people in the lineout, get them performing consistently and play to them.”
Fellow Lock Jim Hamilton reinforces the message about keeping it simple “so everyone can understand the call and react accordingly.” Not least for the thrower.
Hooker Schalk Brits explains a successful lineout is “definitely down to making the right calls and everyone understanding the calls too.”
How to improve the lineout call
South Africa’s Second Row Eben Etzebeth warns young players they have to do their homework when it comes to lineout calling.
“In the Springboks, we’ve really got a lot of variations and calls, so it entails a fair bit of studying. But like anything in the world, practice makes perfect – the only way to improve your lineout calling is to keep working on it every day and making sure you do the basics well.”
Watch my video on the 8 Steps to make your Lineout Work now.
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby Collegiate All-Americans Forwards Coach, is a former Ireland A & 7s, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now U.S. Naval Academy Director of Rugby following 5 successful seasons as Head Coach at Dartmouth Rugby. He writes for RugbyToday.com and other publications when not coaching and blogging on lineoutcoach.com