It is many many years since I played rugby. Playing for the Fifths Extra B XV was a relatively straightforward affair. Nowadays, rugby is more complicated:
Until fairly recently the lineout was divided into two groups – the jumping trio, and the hooker and the rest. Now it’s divided into groups of two, three and three and each of those three groups has different jobs at the first, second and third breakdowns after the lineout is completed.
At the first, the first to the breakdown will be seven and eight; at the second it will be the two non-jumping forwards and the hooker; finally at the third it’ll be the jumper and the two lifters. Simple so far? Well, that is the formula if the throw is to the back of the line out, and it further changes as the game moves on beyond the three areas nominated by the attacking side for where they want the breakdowns to be. And, of course, it changes again for defensive lineouts.
Simply, anyone playing in the back row has to understand those protocols and how they change on the hoof, something which is difficult enough for guys who have been around the block a few times. But it’s when the game becomes more fluid, the ball manipulating defence, that things get complicated and when instinct has to take over.
As group after group deal with the series of breakdowns, so the others go “round the corner” keeping the move going before a good back-row senses it’s time to reap the reward for all the hard work. They have to present themselves as an attacking option. Done instinctively – watch Kieran Read or Richie McCaw – and there is a chance; delay and you’re buried because the opposition is mirroring your actions and will be only a sniff away.Wow ...