Step 7 in the “8 Steps That will make Your Lineout Function.” series focuses on The Catch.
This lineout component is relatively self-explanatory. Just focus on the aggressive nature of the catch, you are trying to attack the ball when you are at maximum extension. Make sure you are catching with your fingertips, you don’t want the ball slapping off your hands.
Catching the ball at the lineout requires the same mechanics as catching the ball from a kick off.
It is an overhead catch, using both hands. In an ideal scenario, the timing and throw were perfect, the lifters are chest to chest, the jumper is at full stretch, and he catches the ball with his fingers spread wide, thumbs together to create that window.
Are there different options for catching based on where you are in the lineout?
The catching mechanics do change depending on where the jumper is in the lineout as lock George Robson explains.
“If I’m at the front I try to go up quickly and win a pre-grip ball. The catching mechanism is part of the jump for me. I start quite low with my hands either side of me. When I jump I use my arms to get momentum and then when I’m in the air my arms are forward and up, not straight above my head. This way I can reach forward and grab the ball before anyone else – it’s closer to me and others have less time to react and get the ball. In the same movement I snatch the ball into my body as quickly as possible. It’s the same thing with drive ball – you want to draw the ball into your body as quickly as you can before anyone else can get an arm in.
If you are going backwards for a lob and trying to beat someone behind I would use the same jump mechanism but I would lean back with my arms and reach back to get the ball behind me which gives me more reach.
Straight up the middle, like at the front, you want to gather it a bit in front of you. If the throw is top dollar you want to be reaching at the top of your jump to get it as that gives a crisp ball to play off. When you catch off the top use your arms, reach and catch, move your head to where I want the ball to go, bring your arms down, and put the ball where the SH is going to go so he can run onto it and do that quickly.”
What the professionals say
“Don’t twist your upper body too much because you will compromise your jump stability,” advises lock Marco Bortolami.
While Skills Coach Mick Byrne’s key message is to remind young players that their hand is a continuation of their arm and should be kept straight so their fingers are pointed up and not backwards.
“Their hand continues on from their arm so there are no cocked wrists. For a lineout jumper if he cocks his wrists and then reaches above his head his fingers are actually pointing backwards. We really work hard on keeping their hands as an extension of their arms with no cock in the wrists so that whether they reach for the ball so their fingers are available for the catch.”
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 Head Coach of Dartmouth Rugby. He writes for RugbyToday.com and other publications when not coaching and blogging on lineoutcoach.com