EXPERT ANALYSIS: Lineout guru Justin Harrison explains what happened in Sydney

The Rugby Championship
by Justin Harrison

The Wallabies' lineout was a major problem in the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney, with New Zealand stealing eight of 13 throws. asked former Wallabies lock and respected lineout guru Justin Harrison to analyse each of the moments, and explain what went wrong.


The first line out is obviously a pre-called option, so the target has been decided and communicated it to the hooker.

They’re walking in to change the tempo but one issue that we see arise here straight away is that the All Blacks no.3 sets up a a few metres away from the five metre line.

In Test rugby you want to use the whole 10 metres available - between the 5-metre and the 15-metre lines - when you have the ball.

You need to keep that tight-head prop for New Zealand anchored to the 5-metre line to spread the Kiwi defensive players out. But from the start, Franks is clearly committed to lifting Retallick, right where that pre-called option is.

A really simple option is for Tom Robertson to turn around and take the throw. Just to take the pressure off.

Your plan B on walk-in calls is to explore the extremities of the line out. The line out caller needs to have the capacity to call another option, that will serve to anchor that tighthead to the 5-metre line for the night.

But Franks has enough space to adjust with half-a-step and and lift in the middle. If Robbo is on the 5-metre and Hoops is right on him, Retallick has to make a decision then: he has to either mark Hoops, or let him win an easy one. Or he stays in the middle, with a front lifter a step or two away.

We don’t make the All Blacks make a decision so they get a good lift to contest that ball and get the steal.


This one was ruled a knock on in the end but it’s worth looking at.

Again, you can see the desired hot zone - the win zone - is pretty much the same. But Retallick is there again, with the tight-head prop committed to him.

At the front of the line out is Genia and Franks isn’t looking to cover the area because we haven’t exposed it earlier.  Again, a short one might be the option there to help ease the pressure, anchor no.3 to the 5-metre line and spread the Kiwi defence out.


We go to movement on this one and it is pretty compressed. The dummy movement back doesn’t draw enough attention.

Decoy movements on the 15-metre line can be difficult to execute because there is such a long travel time for the ball. Whitelock is watching the ball here and unless the hooker throws the ball on the dummy, no.5 knows the ball is not coming to that option. So he stays where he is.

Whitelock doesn’t bite on the dummy and Coleman moves into that zone where Retallick has been waiting and his lock partner lifts him. The throw isn’t spot on either.

If they went through with a jump with Coleman staying on 15-metre line they’ve pretty much got him beaten.

It’s not a bad option but there’s just not enough fluidity in the dummy and there is too great a distance for the initial decoy to be effective.


Robertson is closer here on the 5-metre line and the no.3 is a bit worried about him. There is not a bad effort at selling a dummy, too. Rodda could even taken an easy win at the front if he'd stayed hands up.

But the Australian timing is off here. We understand why we want to win the ball at the back because it releases the halfback and he has a shorter pass to centre field, as opposed to an easy option at the front but longer pass.

But we are now at a point where we just need to win the ball, with the simplest option.

The ball is in too early before Coleman is set with the front lifter, and it’s an ineffective lift. So the ball comes at him when he is still on the way up and there is an All Black hand that gets it to it even without a lift.

The All Blacks actually get away with some pretty ordinary defence here. The decoy did it’s job but the Wallabies' timing and throw are a bit off.

If that ball gets thrown to Coleman when he is at full extension in the air, it’s an easy win


If I am an All Black, I am not going to spend much time defending Hoops and shutting him down.

He’s mostly at the front and worst case scenario, they win an ordinary ball, and it’s a 16m pass for the halfback instead of a 5m pass.

What I have to do as a defender is make them call away from their preferable win zone, which we’ve seen so far is the middle and back.

But now Retallick is into his rhythm and he can put pressure onto the middle of the line out just by standing there, with a back lifter having a token one hand on his hip and the prop at the front. He has freedom of movement and he adjusts a little as they come in.

Hoops is already heading towards the front on his way in and it ends up just being an open side flanker being beaten by an international second rower. It will always happen if that contest unfolds.

Hoops probably wanted to beat him for pace, but you may be better there to give the caller time to see how New Zealand are set up, and re-adjust accordingly.


New Zealand are creating some distraction around Retallick. He is able to be a threat now, even though he’s not. He is looking, has a back lifter close to him.

But if you look at all of the lifts New Zealand wins in defence, they’re actually not great lifts. They’re not full extension. Which means that our lifts weren’t as good they should have been, and our height of ball win zone is not as high as it could be.

I have seen the Wallabies drill in training and their height and execution and skill in that area has been very good. So they definitely just had an off night in timing, and in lift execution and throw height.

It’s normally a problem that arises against northern hemisphere, not southern. Normally you really have to be right on with height against teams like England, Scotland and Wales, and with the New Zealand boys, you can usually get away with just getting your throw height right. In this instance we haven’t.

This one is just the throw not being high enough. If New Zealand didn’t get anyone up in the air, look at the likely win zone: it’d be at chest height. It’s just not high enough.

The use of space is good but Latu just hasn't executed the throw effectively enough here.


Again this is not an effective throw. Look at the lift from New Zealand, he’s come across but he’s not stable and he’s only in the air for a split second really.

He comes across and lands on our side. But look at the win height of the ball, it’s not high enough. We are still going up when that ball is being tapped by a New Zealander.

So timing is definitely out there. Thrown too early and not waiting for full extension on lift. Still going up when the ball is arriving.


Very similar to the last one. Almost a carbon copy. Throw height too low and thrown too early, not waiting for full extension. They’ve thrown the same line out and had the same problem.

I’d argue the back lifter even could have come back right onto the 15, to fully explore that space and allow the hooker to not worry about an overthrow, and to let it go with more height and pace.

He could just re-adjust his sights for a sponsor’s panel in the background to be a couple of rows higher.


Generally speaking, in the week after you’ve had an off night at lineout time you just get straight back to the tape and you focus on understanding what went wrong.

Were they just better? Just better in defence?

Not every line out is going to be uncontested. Most aren’t.

Lineouts are pretty saturated now, in terms of innovation. There is nothing new you are really going to see, it just comes down to skill and consistent execution now. You look to isolate the ones that were genuinely lost because they were better?

Or were they lost because of a breakdown in system, or a poor call or a poor throw?

Then you start looking at “if they beat us for skill or the option call, was there another option available?” And did we have it in our calling structure?

Even if we wanted to have an off-call, or a panic button option to get the ball to Robbo or Genia at the front, do we even have that in our structure?

If we don’t, should we put it in?

I would expect the Wallabies will be looking at the timing of their throw, the height of their throw, the calling structure they took into the match and just those little touches, like using all of that ten metre space to occupy players in the All Black defensive system.

They’ll be working hard this week, no doubt, and seven days is definitely enough time to fix up those issues.