Who Gets The Lineout In Rugby? (8 Situations)

In most circumstances in a rugby match, the opposition gets a lineout when a team puts the ball into touch. The most common exception is when a team kicks the ball out of play from a penalty.

But what happens if the ball bounces off a player into touch? Or if a hooker messes up the throw-in?

This article runs through eight situations to see who gets the lineout in a rugby match.

Who Gets The Lineout From A Penalty?

When a team is awarded a penalty, they have the option to kick the ball over the sideline.

The team that kicked the ball successfully out of play from a penalty will throw it into the lineout.

What if the ball doesn’t go out of play from a penalty?

Sometimes you will see the opposition winger or fullback try to prevent the ball from going over the sideline.

This happens when the ball is dropping within jumping height as it nears the line. If the defender can jump and catch the ball before it goes over the line, they are now in possession of the ball.

This is a big mistake by the kicker from the point of view of the team awarded the penalty.

What if the ball hits a defender before it goes out of play from a penalty?

You also may see the defender try and fail to intercept the ball.

If the ball goes backward and out of play, the kicking team gets the lineout at the point that the ball crossed the line.

So, they basically get the same effect as the usual penalty. Perhaps they steal a few unexpected yards!

If the defender fumbles the ball forward and the ball goes out of play, the kicking team has the option of a scrum or a lineout.

I’ve only seen teams opt for a lineout in this situation. As the defender was very close to the touchline, then the scrum will likely be 15 meters from the line.

That makes one side (the blind side) quite narrow. A lineout gives more options to launch different players.

Who Gets The Lineout From A Free Kick?

When a team is awarded a penalty, they have the option to kick the ball over the sideline.

The team that kicks the ball out of play from a free kick will lose possession. The opposition throws it into the lineout.

What if the ball hits a player before it goes out of play?

You’ll often see kickers launch a high ball from a free kick and their winger races upfield to compete for it.

Let’s say that a winger from each side jumps to catch the ball near the touchline and the ball is knocked over the line.

Whoever touched the ball last determines who gets the lineout. In other words, the other side gets to the throw in the ball.

Who Gets The Lineout From Open Play?

By open play, I’m referring to the ball going into touch from a situation other than a penalty, free kick, or a restart.

Let’s say that the team in possession has kicked tactically to gain territory in the opposition’s half.

The kicker aims to kick the ball at an angle so it crosses the line as far upfield as possible.

When kickers are outside their 22 (in other words, past the 22-yard line), they want the ball to bounce within the field of play before it crosses the line.

Whether it does or it doesn’t, the opposition gets to throw into the lineout.

But if the ball goes directly into touch when the kicker was outside the 22, then the position of the line out is from where the kicker was standing. That can be a big disadvantage to the kicker’s team and is a big mistake.

We explain more about this in our article on when lineouts happen in rugby.

Who Gets The Lineout When The Ball Is Carried Into Touch?

When a ball carrier is tackled near the sideline, you’ll often see opposition players trying to drag them over the sideline.

As the ball is now out of play, a lineout happens from that position and the opposition gets to throw in the ball.

Running the ball out of play

This doesn’t happen very often, but you’ll occasionally see a ball-carrier run across the sideline into touch.

This means that a lineout is awarded to the opposition at that point.

Lineouts From Bloopers #1: Passing The Ball Into Touch

This is a poor mistake by the player passing the ball.

They either pass too far behind a teammate on the wing, or they fling the ball wide and there is no teammate in position to catch it.

Opposition supporters give a big cheer when a player passes to an invisible teammate.

They know that their team gets the lineout. A blunder makes it even sweeter.

Lineouts From Bloopers #2: Kicking Directly Into Touch From A Restart

I watched Scottish flyhalf Finn Russell kick a restart in Six Nations match against England that sailed straight into touch. This is another blooper that gets the opposition crowd roaring.

Rugby restarts and kick-offs should not go directly into touch. Otherwise, the opposition get a scrum or a lineout at the halfway line.

Usually, this kind of mistake is the preserve of rookie flyhalves in their first season. But even one of the highest paid players in rugby can have a loss in concentration.

Lineouts From Bloopers #3: Incorrect Throws

We’ve covered mistakes in open play and from kicks that lead to lineouts.

But messing up at a lineout can also lead to another lineout.

If the hooker makes an incorrect throw by mistake, the referee will award a lineout to the opposition.

Let’s say the rain is teeming down and the ball is like a bar of soap. An inexperienced thrower may let the ball slip out of the hands and hit the ground in front of their feet.

If the ball doesn’t travel past five meters, this is an incorrect throw that leads to a lineout for the opposition.

It also gets a good laugh from the crowd behind the unfortunate hooker.

Official List Of Rules

Here is a link to the official list of rules for lineouts.

More Articles On Lineouts