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"The Game" (Part 2)

By John Phillips
August 31 2019



The line-out is another one of the awesome sights of rugby union. It's a way of re-starting play after the ball has been knocked or kicked out of play past the touch line. The line-out is taken on the exact spot where the ball went out of play. It can have anywhere between three to eight players from each side in it, up to 16 in total, all aiming to get their hands on the ball for their team. 

So how does it work? The advantage is with the team throwing in. They get the ball because they were not the team who last touched the ball before it went out. 


The eight forwards and the scrum-half are the players who make up the line-out. The most important players in the line-out are the hooker, the two second rows and the scrum-half. They are the players responsible for getting the ball out to the backs or for the rest of the forwards to attack. But that does not mean the other players have nothing to do. Far from it. 

The line-out must be formed past the five-metre line and no more than 15m in from the touchline. Both teams must have a one metre gap between them. This is very important and something referees can spot a mile off. If the referee decides one team has purposely closed the gap, he will award a penalty to the other team. 


The hooker is usually the player with the task to throw the ball into a line-out. Their job is to find the "jumpers", usually the two second rowers. But this is not as easy as it seems.


Remember, the other team wants the ball just as much as your team does, so they'll be doing all they can to upset the hooker's throw. The hooker gets a call from one of the jumpers or the scrum half, usually in a code no-one except your team understands, on who to aim the throw at. They must stand behind the touch line when they make their throw. And the throw must be deadly straight, otherwise the referee will have the line-out taken again, but this time the opposition get the throw in. 


The line-out may look very simple, but it has plenty of laws every player must follow: 

  •        The ball must be thrown straight 
  •        All players not in the line-out must be 10m behind the last man   in the line 
  •        No player can use a one of the opposition to use as support when they are jumping 
  •        No player is allowed to push, charge or hold another player in the line-out
  •        No player can be lifted before the ball is thrown 
  •        No jumper can use the outside of their arm to catch or deflect the ball

Depending on how serious the offence is, the referee will either award a penalty or free-kick to the team who did not make the offence.

Rugby union differs from association football in that the hands can be employed to move the ball. However, a player can only pass the ball backwards or laterally (i.e. not forward) to another player, or kick it. This means that the majority of progress made by an attacking team occurs through a leap frog cycle of passing the ball, running to make ground, being tackled and repeating this process. Each of these cycles (greatly simplified) is called a phase of play. The aim of rugby is to score more points than the opposition. Teams score in several ways:


Touching the ball down, in a controlled fashion, with downward pressure from any point on the body from the waist to the neck on or over the opponents' goal line, including the base of the posts, which is considered to be part of the goal line (a try, worth 5 points). A penalty try can be awarded if, following an incident of foul play, in the judgment of the referee a try would have been scored had the foul not occurred. The try got its name because originally the touching down of the ball only gave you a "try" at scoring by successfully kicking for post, which were the only points scored if the kick was good. 

After scoring a try, the scoring team attempts a conversion: a player takes a kick at goal in line with where the touch-down occurred. Scoring the goal earns 2 points.

Kicking the ball above the crossbar and between the uprights of a large 'H'-shaped set of posts. This may either occur from a penalty kick or kicked from the hand during play. In the latter case, the ball must strike the ground before being kicked (a drop goal). Both types of goal score 3 points


At the start of each half, one side kicks off. One side, determined following the toss of a coin, takes a drop kick from the middle of the centre
line to start the first half. The ball must travel at least 10 metres into the opposition half. The other team kicks off the second half. The kicking
side frequently kicks the ball high and aims to drop it just over the 10 metre minimum, which is marked by a dashed line across the pitch. This tactic gives their players time to chase the lobbed ball and hope to catch it before the defenders can do so. Alternatively the kick may be a long kick deep into opposition territory, sacrificing the chance to regain possession for territorial gain.

Similarly, there is also a 22 metre drop-out. This is awarded if the attacking side is responsible for sending
the ball into the in-goal area, but instead of their player grounding the ball and scoring a try it is first grounded by a defender. If the ball is kicked into the in-goal area by the attackers and instead of being grounded there by either side it continues, under its own momentum, through the in-goal area and crosses the dead-ball line, then the defenders have the option of choosing either a 22 drop out or a scrum at the place where the attackers kicked the ball. The 22 metre drop out is taken at any point along (or behind) the 22 metre line.

Note: in rugby union, unlike association football (soccer), the lines bordering the field of play are themselves regarded as out of play. Thus, a player standing on but not over the touch line is regarded to be "in touch".

 Video: Eddie Jones, "The Triangle of 10"

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"The Game" (Part 2)
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