Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Aussies wary of giving away lineout advantage

Another challenge was trying to go through the detail in training while players were nursing their bodies after the torrid opening combat. Photo / Getty Images
Another challenge was trying to go through the detail in training while players were nursing their bodies after the torrid opening combat. Photo / Getty Images

Safecrackers, sign-language experts and contortionists inhabit the shadowy world of rugby lineouts.

"Your ball, chuck 'er in" does not cut it any more, not since the Springboks returned to global competitions and lifting became legal.

As scrums have gone to a new level with technicians tutoring angles, feet alignment, reaction time, grips and posture, there has been an equal emphasis on the sweet science of lineouts. They range from the seven-man setup to the shortened line or the quick throw in.

In the first test in Brisbane, the Lions had a 13-5 lineout advantage although neither side lost any of their throws. The Wallabies were down on the lineout possession but they felt they limited the Lions' effectiveness.

On debut, blindside flanker Ben Mowen made his side's lineout calls and was satisfied with the results.

After the relief of their 23-21 win the Lions spoke about their lack of leeway and inability to work some moves from the tail of their lineout.

"Obviously that is a huge strength of the way [Warren] Gatland teams have played," Mowen said.

"They like to pick through the tail of the lineout and use their big guys to carry over the advantage line.

"The more we can limit that momentum, then that allows us to set a three-phase shutdown where defensively we can start to be dictating what they can and can't do after three phases."

Adjustments had to be made for the test in Melbourne on Saturday. The Wallabies would suffer if they let the Lions get their optimum lineout ball.

The Wallabies had to work to their overall plans which they believed would continue to be a benefit.

"It is extremely challenging and it makes it more challenging that they had five really good lineout jumpers. Against sides with one or two that becomes reasonably easy."

The Lions had speed from Tom Croft, Paul O'Connell was an unbelievably good caller, Alun Wyn-Jones was very experienced while Jamie Heaslip and captain Sam Warburton were consistent at the back.

They would miss the injured O'Connell this weekend but his decision to stay on tour and help out would give the Lions the sort of experienced assistance Nathan Sharpe brought to the Wallabies.

Lock Geoff Parling was a strong replacement and offered different demands.

"Things that work for you in test one won't work for you in test two," Mowen said. "Just as we are assessing how we went in terms of our strategy, I am sure they are as well.

"That is the intriguing thing about these three-test series. It is very rare ... you get to play the same side three weekends in a row. There is a hell of a lot of strategy that goes into preparing for the first test and then you have to go ... and get it right for the second."

The other challenge was trying to go through the detail in training while players were nursing their bodies after the torrid opening combat.

- NZ Herald

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