TOKYO, 27 Sep - The lineout provides a perfect opportunity for the attack. The defensive and attacking lines stand 10m back from the lineout, and that gives the attack space. They have time to do lots of interesting things before having to worry about defenders. That attack is dependent on winning clean ball. How do teams make sure they win the ball at lineouts and what do they then do with it?
Most teams win the majority of their lineouts. They do this because they know exactly where the ball will be going. Attacking teams will pre-plan all the movement they want to see and communicate this to each other before the lineout through coded words. The opposition must try to decipher where the attacking team might go and get their player up ahead of the attack. Look at how the Ireland players try to follow the movements of the Scotland players. They lift the correct man but Scotland have done it sooner and so get him higher. Winning your own lineout is about wrong-footing the opposiiton, and speed. Make the opposition think that somebody else is being lifted and then get your jumper off the ground before they can respond.
As you can see, winning your own lineout requires an intricate dance of 100kg forwards. All need to work together to make sure the ball is won. Some teams ignore the rigmarole of the lineout and do something different. Fiji decide to simply hurl the ball over the top of the lineout to their fly-half Ben Volavola, who stands 10m back. Once the ball is thrown, he can close that gap and catch it at the back of the lineout, immediately starting an attack. Rather than trying to beat the opposition, you take the opposition out of the lineout.
Once you have won the lineout, however you do it, you then have attacking ball. Teams will frequently try to move the ball away to take advantage of all the opposition forwards being tied up. That is not the only way to attack, though. The space can open up also in the five-metre channel. Defences only put a single player there most of the time. You can see how Fiji take advantage of this, setting up the fake maul, drawing that defender in, and then attacking the space he left.
When you next watch a match at RWC 2019 look out for how teams deal with lineouts. Do they try to trick the opposition with lots of movement before the ball is thrown, or try to beat them by getting their jumper into the air first? When they win the ball, what do they do with it? If they are having success with one method, do the defence change what they do?