Rugby lineout calls explained

Rugby Lineout calls
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Rugby lineout calls are often shrouded with a bit of mystery. It is one of the dark arts of forward play.

We take a light-hearted look at some of the lineout call options that are used by teams. Ryan Jordan asked fans who are part of Rugby Union Banter Group for their input and these are the options they came up with.

Rugby lineout calls

Most of the calls proved to be pretty simple, but some did have clever variations.

Front Middle Back

There are many variations of this type of call. The simplest call in this example is to use a word starting with a letter from any of the words in front, middle back. The actual call would be hidden in a sequence of words and numbers. If it is decided that the second word in the lineout call is the actual instruction, 12-15-Smith-3-France-England would mean the throw would be to the front.

Teams can decide whichever words they want to using this example as long as those words don’t share the same letters. The most popular were “Thames Rowing Club” and “Cows Drink Tea”. Some of the other submissions we are not able to repeat here!

A clever variation is to use the third word as the instruction to play the ball from the top of the lineout or to drive the ball using either airline or land transportation wording. 12-15-Smith-3-France-Emirates would mean that the throw is to the front and the scrumhalf is expecting the ball to be delivered from the top of the lineout.

The scrumhalf’s feet

A much more simple lineout call that is suitable for the lower leagues is the positioning of the scrumhalf’s feet. The lineout caller can shout out all the instructions they care to, but the scrumhalf is the key. If his or her foot closest to the touchline is ahead of the other foot, the call is to go for front ball. Feet together means middle ball. Foot furthest from the touchline ahead of the other foot means back ball.

Head cloth skin

Another simple lineout instruction that is called by the scrumhalf is the old head, cloth and skin signal. The team would decide which of the scrumhalf touching his head, skin or cloth meant front, middle or back. Most scrumhalves are not best equipped for this call though as they are prone to multiple vanity touches of their hairdos, completely confusing their forwards.

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Hooker holding the ball

Another very simple lineout instruction is literally safer in the hands of the hooker. While the lineout is being formed, the hooker will hold the ball with the nominated hand (either left or right) either at the front, the middle or the back of the ball and that is exactly where the ball will be thrown.

Rugby lineout calls for higher grade players

Some calls are a little more cerebral. That is either in how much information is in the call or how encrypted it is.

The numbers challenge
This call is more advanced as it gives a lot more information in terms of both where the ball is going and in what direction the lineout jumper is being asked to jump. Warning: Only to be used if you have a hooker who can throw a decent set of darts.
It is a combination of 4 numbers.
The first number tells you which of the next three to listen for.
After the first number that codes where the real call is hidden, 1, 2 or 3 is front ball, jumper coming forward, straight up or backwards.
4, 5 or 6 is middle ball, with the same variations as front ball.
7, 8 or 9 is back ball, with the same variations as front ball.
0 is straight over the top.
So 2576 would be back ball with the jumper coming forward. 2 tells the forwards to listen to the second of the following three numbers. 7 is the code that the lineout would need to prepare for and execute.
Straights and curlies
This lineout call doesn’t offer as much variety as the numbers challenge but would take the most astute mathematician in the opposition ranks a while to work out. If it is worked out, the trigger number can be changed to the first or third number during the game.
If the middle of three numbers shouted was ‘straight’ in terms of its written shape, ie a 1, 4 or 7, it goes to the front. A curly shape, ie a 2, 3, 5, 8 or 9 it goes to the middle. A 0 was a ball to the back.

B&I Lions 99 call – a piece of history

This call was not necessarily a rugby lineout call. It was more a call to action. It was used by the British and Irish Lions during their 1974 tour to South Africa. It was used as “retaliation” during their Tests against the Springboks and produced some of the most violent rugby ever seen. When the 99 call was made, every Lions player was expected to engage violently with the nearest Springbok player. The theory was that if everyone was involved, the referee couldn’t determine who did what and couldn’t send anyone off.

Rugby lineout calls are not just a way to restart the game after the ball is kicked into touch. They help the team throwing the ball in to regain possession at the best possible odds.

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