5 Key Roles in Rugby Lineouts: Dominating the Game
5 Key Roles in Rugby Lineouts: Dominating the Game

5 Key Roles in Rugby Lineouts: Dominating the Game


In the dynamic world of rugby, the lineout is a spectacle that never fails to capture the audience’s attention. It’s a strategic play that can make or break a team’s chances of victory. To truly understand the game and appreciate the intricate maneuvers that happen in a lineout, you need to delve into the roles and responsibilities of the players involved.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the key roles in a rugby lineout, from the jumpers and lifters to the thrower and caller. We’ll explore the strategies, techniques, and teamwork required to execute a successful lineout. So, grab your rugby boots, and let’s dive into the heart of this thrilling aspect of the sport.

The Lineout: A Fundamental Aspect of Rugby

Before we delve into the specifics of the roles in a rugby lineout, let’s establish what a lineout actually is. A lineout is a set piece in rugby that occurs when the ball goes out of play on the touchline (sideline) or as a result of a penalty. It’s a way for the team in possession to regain the ball and continue their attack.

The Basics of a Lineout

In a lineout, both teams form two parallel lines perpendicular to the touchline. These lines consist of players who are not in the scrum. The team that throws in the ball (the attacking team) has a distinct advantage, as they get to choose where along the touchline they want to take the throw-in.

The throw-in is performed by the hooker, who is usually the player with the most accurate throwing skills on the team. The thrower aims to get the ball to one of their teammates (jumpers) in the lineout, who are lifted by their teammates (lifters) to catch or tap the ball down to their own team.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the lineout, let’s explore the crucial roles that make it all happen.

The Jumper: Reaching for Success

The jumper is one of the most pivotal roles in a rugby lineout. These players are known for their exceptional jumping ability, agility, and timing. Their primary objective is to catch or tap the ball when it’s thrown into the lineout. Here’s a closer look at the responsibilities and skills required of a jumper.

Role of the Jumper

  1. Catching the Ball: The primary responsibility of the jumper is to catch the ball cleanly from the thrower. This requires excellent hand-eye coordination and a keen sense of timing.
  2. Tapping the Ball: Sometimes, instead of catching the ball, the jumper will tap it down to a teammate. This quick action can disrupt the opposition’s plans and maintain possession for the team.
  3. Reading the Opponent: A skilled jumper must be able to read the opponent’s lineout setup and anticipate where the ball will be thrown. This involves studying the opposition’s patterns and making quick decisions.

Skills Required

  • Jumping Ability: Jumpers must be able to leap high into the air to reach the ball. This requires explosive power in their legs and strong core stability.
  • Timing: Precision timing is crucial to catch or tap the ball at the highest point of the jump.
  • Communication: Jumpers need to communicate effectively with their lifters and the caller to ensure a successful lineout.

The Lifter: The Backbone of the Lineout

While the jumper gets the glory for catching or tapping the ball, the lifters play an equally crucial role in making it happen. Lifters provide the elevation needed for the jumper to reach the ball. Let’s explore their responsibilities and the skills required for success.

Role of the Lifter

  1. Providing Support: Lifters form a stable platform for the jumper by lifting them into the air. This support ensures that the jumper can reach the highest point possible.
  2. Securing the Jumper: Once the jumper has made contact with the ball, the lifters help secure them to ensure a clean catch or tap.
  3. Protecting Against Opposition: Lifters must also be prepared to defend against opposition players trying to disrupt the lineout. This requires strength and stability.

Skills Required

  • Strength: Lifters need to be strong, as they are essentially lifting another player’s body weight.
  • Synchronization: Timing and coordination with the jumper and other lifters are critical to executing a successful lift.
  • Teamwork: Effective communication and trust among lifters are essential for a smooth lineout.

The Thrower: Precision and Accuracy

The thrower, often the hooker, is responsible for making the crucial throw-in during a lineout. This role demands exceptional accuracy and consistency. Let’s take a closer look at what the thrower brings to the lineout.

Role of the Thrower

  1. Accurate Throws: The thrower’s primary role is to deliver an accurate and well-placed throw to their teammates in the lineout.
  2. Variation: To keep the opposition guessing, throwers may use variations in their throws, such as short throws to the front or long throws to the back of the lineout.
  3. Quick Execution: Timing is crucial for the thrower. They must release the ball quickly to prevent the opposition from contesting.

Skills Required

  • Throwing Accuracy: The thrower must be able to consistently hit their intended target.
  • Pressure Handling: Performing under pressure is essential, especially when the outcome of the lineout can influence the course of the game.
  • Decision-Making: The thrower must make quick decisions based on the lineout caller’s instructions.

The Caller: Strategy and Direction

The caller is the tactical mastermind behind the lineout. They play a pivotal role in strategizing and deciding how the lineout will unfold. Let’s delve into their responsibilities and the skills required.

Role of the Caller

  1. Strategy: The caller determines the lineout strategy, including where the throw will be directed and the type of play that will follow.
  2. Communication: Effective communication with the thrower, jumpers, and lifters is essential to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  3. Adaptation: The caller may need to adapt the lineout strategy on the fly based on the opposition’s positioning and actions.

Skills Required

  • Tactical Knowledge: The caller needs an in-depth understanding of the team’s strengths, weaknesses, and the opponent’s tendencies.
  • Clear Communication: Precise and clear instructions are crucial to executing the chosen strategy.
  • Quick Thinking: The ability to make split-second decisions and adjustments is vital during a fast-paced game.

The Supporting Cast: Flankers and Props

While the primary roles in a lineout have been discussed, it’s important to mention the contributions of the flankers and props. These players, often positioned on the sides of the lineout, have specific responsibilities that help secure the ball or disrupt the opposition.


  1. Ball Retrieval: Flankers are positioned on the outside of the lineout to retrieve any loose balls that may come their way.
  2. Pressure on the Opponent: They can also put pressure on the opposition’s thrower, potentially causing errors or turnovers.


  1. Stability: Props, positioned at the front of the lineout, provide stability and support to the jumpers and lifters.
  2. Blocking Opposition: They can block the path of opposing players attempting to disrupt the lineout.

The Art of Lineout Play: Strategies and Variations

Now that we’ve explored the key roles in a rugby lineout, it’s time to delve into the strategies and variations that teams employ to gain an advantage. Lineouts are not one-size-fits-all; teams develop their own tactics to outsmart their opponents.

Lineout Strategies

Front of the Lineout

  • Quick Ball: A throw to the front of the lineout allows for a quick transfer to the backs, facilitating a fast-paced attack.
  • Safety: A safer option as the throw is closer to the thrower, reducing the risk of interception.

Middle of the Lineout

  • Versatility: Throws to the middle can lead to various playing options, both for the forwards and the backs.
  • Surprise Element: It can catch the opposition off guard, as it’s less predictable than a front throw.

Back of the Lineout

  • Set Piece Plays: Teams may opt for a throw to the back to execute set piece plays or initiate mauls.
  • Kick-Off Option: Provides a launching pad for kicking strategies if the receiving player is a proficient kicker.

Lineout Variations

Short Throws

  • Quick Ball: Short throws are ideal for quick, close-quarters play.
  • Variation: They can keep the opposition guessing and prevent them from setting up a solid defense.

Long Throws

  • Exploiting Space: Long throws to the back can exploit gaps in the opposition’s defensive line.
  • Strategic Kicking: The receiving player can either run or kick the ball, adding an element of surprise.

Dummy Throws

  • Deception: A dummy throw creates confusion among the opposition by feigning a throw to one side before changing direction.
  • Counter-Attack: It can set up opportunities for a counter-attack if the opposition commits too many defenders to the wrong side.

Lineout Drives

A lineout drive, also known as a maul, is a powerful tactic where the jumping player is brought to the ground by their teammates immediately after catching the ball. This initiates a controlled forward movement, making it challenging for the opposition to stop.

  • Forward Momentum: The aim is to gain territory and potentially score a try by advancing toward the opponent’s try line.
  • Teamwork: A successful drive requires synchronized effort from all players involved in the lineout.

Defensive Lineouts

While we’ve primarily focused on attacking lineouts, defensive lineouts are equally important. Defending teams aim to disrupt the opposition’s lineout and regain possession.

  • Jumping to Contest: Defensive jumpers try to contest the throw by reaching for the ball or disrupting the opposition’s setup.
  • Pressure on the Thrower: Putting pressure on the thrower can lead to inaccurate throws or turnovers.

The Evolution of Lineout Play

Rugby is a sport that continually evolves, and lineout play is no exception. Over the years, teams have developed new techniques and tactics to gain an edge. Let’s explore some of the innovations that have shaped modern lineout play.

Specialized Jumpers

Teams have started employing specialized jumpers who excel in specific areas of the lineout. Some jumpers are exceptional at stealing opposition throws, while others are experts at securing clean ball for their team.

Lineout Codes

Teams have developed codes or signals to communicate lineout calls discreetly. This helps in maintaining an element of surprise and prevents the opposition from deciphering the intended play.

Quick Throws

In certain situations, teams opt for quick throws to catch the opposition off guard. Quick throws require swift decision-making and execution.

Mastering the Lineout: Tips from the Pros

To gain further insight into the art of lineout play, let’s hear from some rugby legends who have excelled in their roles within the lineout.

Richie McCaw – Flanker

“As a flanker, my role during lineouts was to secure any loose balls and disrupt the opposition’s play. Timing and positioning were key to my success in this aspect of the game.”

Martin Johnson – Lock/Jumper

“Being a jumper in the lineout required precision and trust in my lifters. It was all about timing my jump perfectly to secure the ball for my team.”

Sean Fitzpatrick – Hooker/Thrower

“Throwing accurately in the lineout was my specialty. It takes hours of practice to consistently hit your targets, but it’s a game-changer when executed well.”

The Future of Lineout Play

As rugby continues to evolve, so too will lineout play. With advancements in training methods, technology, and strategy, we can expect to see even more innovation in the years to come. Teams will push the boundaries of what’s possible in the lineout, making it an even more captivating aspect of the game.

Links related to rugby lineouts that readers can explore for more in-depth information:

  1. World Rugby – Lineout: This link provides official information about lineouts from World Rugby, the governing body of rugby union. It includes rules, videos, and resources for understanding lineouts.
  2. RugbyPass – Mastering the Rugby Lineout: This article offers insights and tips on mastering the rugby lineout. It provides a detailed breakdown of the roles involved in lineouts and strategies for success.
  3. The XV – Lineout Drills and Tips: This article offers practical lineout drills and tips for players and coaches looking to improve their lineout performance. It provides valuable insights into training and technique.

These links can serve as additional resources for readers who want to delve deeper into the world of rugby lineouts.


In the world of rugby, the lineout is a captivating spectacle that showcases the synergy between players and the strategic brilliance of the teams. From the jumpers reaching for the skies to the lifters providing the lift, the thrower’s precision, and the caller’s strategy, every role in the lineout is essential to its success.

As you watch a rugby match, take a moment to appreciate the intricate dance that unfolds during a lineout. It’s a testament to the teamwork, skill, and dedication of the players who make this aspect of the game truly special.

So, the next time you see a lineout in action, remember the key roles and strategies discussed here, and you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the game of rugby.