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What Is a Lineout in Rugby?

Rugby players reaching for the ball during a line-out at dusk.

Have you ever watched a rugby match and wondered what happens when players form a tower-like huddle on the side? That’s called a lineout, an essential play used to restart the game after the ball leaves the field.

This article will take you through what a lineout is, its rules, and why it’s crucial for gaining momentum in rugby. Keep reading to become as savvy about lineouts as the fans roaring in the stands!

Key Takeaways

  • A lineout is a method to restart play in rugby after the ball goes into touch and allows teams to contest for possession.
  • The throwing team can choose the number of players in the lineout, giving them a tactical edge.
  • Both lifting and jumping players are key during a lineout; lifters must support jumpers, who aim to catch the ball at its peak.
  • Teams must have an equal number of players on each side during a lineout, balancing competition for possession.
  • Quick throw – ins can surprise opponents during a lineout, leading to potential scoring opportunities or game momentum shifts.

Definition and Purpose of a Lineout

A lineout in rugby is a method of restarting play after the ball has gone into touch. It gives an advantage to the team throwing the ball in, allowing them to contest for possession and potentially gain an advantage in the game.

Restarting play after the ball goes into touch

As the ball sails out of bounds, it’s time for a lineout to bring the action back into play. This crucial moment gives the throwing team an opportunity for tactical advantage. They choose how many players will rise to snatch the incoming ball from the air.

Precision is key; throwers must aim the ball straight down a one-metre corridor between eager, awaiting athletes. The contest begins as soon as leather leaves fingers – timing and teamwork intertwine to capture possession.

Lineouts not only reboot the game but shape its flow, setting stages where strategies unfold and power struggles emerge. Players stand ready, lifters brace themselves, and jumpers fix their eyes on what comes next – securing that oval prize can shift tides in any match.

Moving forward, let’s dive into how teams line up and vie for dominance during these high-flying set pieces.

Advantage for throwing team

Restarting play after the ball goes into touch sets up an advantageous position for the throwing team. Additionally, they have the opportunity to choose how many players will contest for possession in the lineout, allowing them to tailor their strategy according to their strengths and weaknesses.

The throwing team’s flexibility in deciding the number of players involved can create a tactical advantage, influencing how they approach regaining possession from the lineout.

Given that each team has designated jumpers specialised in competing for the ball, this decision becomes crucial as it directly impacts their ability to secure possession or disrupt the opposition’s set piece play.

The Process of a Lineout

On the mark of touch, players from both teams form a lineout, with a specific number of players allowed to contest for possession. The throwing team has the advantage in this set piece as they look to restart play after the ball goes into touch.

Formation on the mark of touch

A lineout is formed on the mark of touch, with each team creating a single line that runs parallel to and sits half a metre from the mark of touch on their respective side of the field.

This formation places players in prime position for contesting possession when the ball is thrown in from the touchline. Jumpers can only leap after the throw-in, and lifters must keep their feet grounded.

The straight throw must occur within a 1m channel between the two teams’ lines.

Number of players allowed

The team throwing the ball into the lineout gets to decide how many players they want to compete for possession. Similarly, the receiving team can also determine how many players they want to contest for the ball.

This strategic decision allows teams to adapt their tactics based on their strengths and weaknesses, giving them flexibility in determining the number of players involved in this crucial set piece.

The decision on the number of players participating in a lineout is an important tactical choice that can greatly impact a team’s chances of winning possession and gaining momentum.

Contesting for possession

In a lineout, players from each team position themselves to compete for the ball thrown in from the touchline. The jumpers from both teams aim to secure possession by outmaneuvering their opponents and catching the ball at its highest point.

While the throwing team aims to retain possession and set up an attacking opportunity, the receiving team seeks to disrupt their plans, gain back control of play, and potentially launch a counter-attack.

Jumpers must time their leap effectively once the ball is thrown while lifters ensure they are ready to assist without infringing on rules. The battle for possession in the lineout is crucial as it can swing momentum significantly in favor of either team based on who successfully secures the ball.

Rules and Tactics of a Lineout

In a lineout, there must be an equal number of players from each team on the line. Tactics involve quick throw-ins to catch the opposition off guard and secure possession.

Equal number of players from each team

Each team in a lineout must have an equal number of players competing for the ball. This means that if the throwing team decides to have three players contesting, the receiving team also has to match that number with three players of their own.

The decision on the number of players from each team is made before the throw-in and can significantly impact the dynamics of the lineout.

The equal representation ensures fairness and a balanced opportunity for both teams to contest possession in the lineout. It adds an element of strategy as both teams need to decide how many resources they want to commit based on their strengths, opposition analysis, and game plan.

Quick throw-ins

During a lineout, quick throw-ins can catch the opposition off guard. The throwing team can take advantage by quickly deciding to throw the ball in before the defensive team is ready.

This tactic requires swift decision-making and coordination between the thrower and jumpers to secure possession of the ball.

Quick throw-ins provide an opportunity for the throwing team to maintain momentum or exploit gaps in the opposition’s defense. This strategic play can lead to advantageous field position, allowing for attacking opportunities that keep pressure on opponents.

Quick decisions during lineouts are crucial for gaining an upper hand in rugby matches.

Key Players in a Lineout

Key players in a lineout are the lifters who support and lift the jumpers to contest for possession. This requires coordination, strength, and timing to execute effectively.


Lifters play a crucial role in the lineout, supporting their teammates to compete for possession of the ball. They assist the jumpers by lifting them up into the air to reach higher than their opponents.

The lifters must have their feet on the ground until the jumper has been lifted, and they need to execute this quickly and efficiently to give their team an advantage in securing possession.

Working in tandem with jumpers, lifters form a vital part of a successful lineout strategy. Their coordination, strength, and timing are essential in executing a successful lift, creating opportunities for their team to gain control of the game through effective ball retention or set-piece plays.


Jumpers, also known as lineout jumpers, are crucial players in a lineout. These athletes are skilled at timing and coordination to leap into the air and contest for the thrown ball.

They strategise and communicate with their teammates to outmanoeuvre the opposition and secure possession of the ball for their team.

Designated jumpers play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of a lineout. Their athleticism, technique, and ability to read their opponents are essential for gaining an advantage in this set piece.


The lineout is a crucial aspect of rugby union, providing both teams with an opportunity to contest for possession and gain momentum in the game. Understanding the rules, tactics, and key players involved in a lineout can greatly enhance one’s enjoyment and appreciation of the sport.

Importance of the lineout in rugby

A vital part of rugby, the lineout is crucial for gaining possession and momentum. It serves as a strategic opportunity for teams to restart the game, presenting a chance to gain an advantage over their opponents.

With designated jumpers specialising in competing for the ball, the lineout becomes a pivotal aspect where teams can showcase their skill and precision. The lineout also allows teams to strategically plan and decide on the number of players they want to contest for the ball, further showcasing its importance in shaping the dynamics of play.

The lineout presents an important set piece that requires tactical finesse and precise execution. This phase not only provides a means to regain possession but acts as a platform where teams can strategically manoeuvre themselves into advantageous positions on the field, setting up potential scoring opportunities or gaining territorial advantage.

Common terms associated with lineouts (i.e. set-piece try, restart)

The lineout is a key set piece in rugby, often leading to exciting plays and scoring opportunities. One common term associated with lineouts is the “set-piece try,” which refers to a try scored directly from a set play like a lineout.

This can be an impressive display of teamwork and strategy, showcasing the coordination between players involved in the lineout.

Another important term related to lineouts is “restart,” indicating that this phase of play serves as a means of restarting the game after the ball has gone into touch or crossed the touchline.


1. What exactly is a lineout in rugby?

A lineout in rugby is a way to restart play when the ball goes out of bounds, involving players lifting teammates to catch the ball thrown from the sideline.

2. Can you explain how players move during a lineout?

During a lineout, players stand in specific positions and use set movements to try and win the ball; these can include lifts and jumps coordinated with the throw.

3. Are there special rules for throwing in a rugby lineout?

Yes, there are important rugby laws for lineouts which dictate how the ball must be thrown straight down the middle between two lines of opposing players who contest for it.

4. What techniques do teams use within their lineout formation?

Teams develop various techniques for successful outcomes, including choosing different combinations of jumpers and lifters within their planned formation strategy.

5. How vital are player positions when performing a Rugby Lineouts ?

In rugby, each position has an essential role during a Lineouts; understanding these roles helps execute effective plays according to Rugby rules.

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