Triggers, speed and coordination in the lineout

Here’s how to bring the lineout together so the movement, jump, lift and throw work at the same time. The players need to know the plays and trust their skills.


When we bring all the elements of the lineout together, we need to have a trigger to initiate the movement and the throw.

In general, if it’s front ball, and the spacing between players in the lineout is tight the jumper triggers the movement. Or if the spacing is spread out it could be the back lifter, who needs to get into position for a good lift. In that case, the lineout players have to be facing the opposition more and looking over the point of their shoulder to read the movement.

For longer throws, it’s the thrower who tends to trigger the movement. We don’t want to give the opposition any more visual cues than necessary.


The lineout has so many moving parts that it’s important that they all work together to secure the ball.

In 2013, Australia had the best lineout in the top ten playing nations – a 92% success rate. My analysis for that season showed that over the year we had lost 18 lineouts. Of those, five were where the opposition beat us into the space, so the other 13 were down to our own errors.

So even when we were the best, the major reason for losing a lineout was our own poor execution.

That’s why we say “knowledge is power”. All the players in the lineout need to know their roles and responsibilities. When the call comes in, they can’t be spending time processing the knowledge, it has to be second nature. They need to execute skills, not think.

Failure at the lineout more often comes from one or two players not doing their homework. Players need to mentally and physically rehearse the calls, triggers and roles, visualising their movement and reaction to the call and trigger.

In 2014, our lineout percentages slipped as we had a number of injuries, meaning new players coming into the lineout system. It took time for them to be up-to-speed. It’s not an excuse – it’s just a consequence of introducing the players.


Lineout is all about routine, but that doesn’t mean mundane work. We are looking for consistency, and consistency under pressure. We need to replicate the same over and over again.

Under pressure, often players react and start adapting movements and timing if things aren’t working out, creating issues with varied timing and targets for their thrower rather than going back to their routine. They have to back their drills and focus on executing better to beat the opposition with timing and precision.


To win the lineout, if the opposition are choosing to compete, you beat them into the space. That space may be a position in the lineout that’s unmarked or getting into the air quicker than the opposition. That comes from speed across the ground and players’ speed in executing the lift and jump.

When you pick your team, these are the attributes you look for. Work out which you do best, and who does it best. Sometimes you can have players who are quick across the ground, other times we might have players who can put jumpers up quickly. From this, you can design your playbook, choosing either to beat them over the ground or into the air.

Once you have worked out what you do best, trust in it. Speed comes from well-executed skills, and we drill these constantly so it’s consistent. The jumper has to go up at the same place at the same height, and the thrower has to put the ball into that space each time.

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