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When lineouts take place in Rugby Union I have only ever seen Hookers being the player who takes the throw in. Is it in the laws of the game that only a Hooker is allowed to take the throw?

If it is not a requirement why is it the case that they do take all the throws?

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At some point in the game's history wingers used to throw in the ball: sporttaco.com/rec.sport.rugby.union/Historical_Query_2980.html –  benno Apr 4 '13 at 12:21

5 Answers 5

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There is no law stipulating who has to take the line-out throws. To see why it is the Hooker's job, we can consider a process of elimination of the other positions.

First, it should not be any of the backs, since they will be needed to execute backline plays (or defend against them) once the ball is cleared from the lineout.

Consider then the forwards. The two props are the heaviest and strongest players on the team. Their strength is best utilised for lifting the lineout jumpers, so they shouldn't take the throws. The back rowers, flankers and number 8 are more nimble smaller players, suited to cleaning up loose balls that are not caught cleanly or quickly moving to support a player who has successfully caught the lineout throw. Someone has to be the jumper and obviously being tall helps. Since the back rowers need to be nimble, they are generally not overly tall. Therefore the second rowers (also called locks) are usually tall players able to be good lineout jumpers. Note that the Hooker needs to be shorter than the props in order to hang off them in the scrums, so they can't be tall and therefore not suited to being jumpers.

So, by process of elimination we see that the most logical player left over to actually take the throw is the hooker. They are not needed in the backline and would be the least useful forward to participate in the lineout itself, so they instead learn the skill of taking the lineout throw.

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This is certainly the case, however depending on the skills and body size of the front-row it is not uncommon for the prop the throw in the ball (especially when the hooker has a heaver build). –  benno Apr 4 '13 at 12:23

Like said before, I think the person throwing the ball is not defined by the rule but rather by natural optimization of tactics. I have been playing in teams where the flanker was throwing the ball in lineout.

I would add that there is no limit on the number of players in a lineout, and that all of the players of the team to be part of it.

In fact, the Hooker is not always throwing the ball as you can see when a back for instance picks up the ball and play a quick lineout for a teammate, or himself.

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In the Rugby Union laws I find no rule specifying the hooker is the only one that can throw in at lineouts. The wikipedia article on lineouts does not say anything about such a law either. So I think anyone can throw at a lineout if they want to.

The wikipedia article on Rugby Union positions gives an overview on the positions and states the general physical features that those players should have to be successful in the tasks generally assigned to that position. So since every position has specific tasks it is reasonable to assume that those player train them specifically in addition the general task they all share. Since throwing at a lineout seems to involve a lot of training (different throws an tactics on call) it should be done by the players trained for it which are generally the hookers.

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To answer the question directly. No, any player can throw the ball into the line out. It tends to be the hooker the majority of the time and the reasons why have been already pointed out here. In my time playing and refereeing, I've seen the following players throw the ball in; the open side flanker, the scrum half and a loose head prop.

When I played rugby for a club called Balinasloe RFC, we had a few training sessions from an ex-international Irish player, Noel Mannion, and his philosophy on the throwing in player was simple. It was the player who could throw the ball in the straightest and with the most accuracy (not always the hooker).

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In the old days it was usually the winger who threw in, except in France where the scrum half did it. The winger was condsidered ideal for the job as his wing was unexploitable due the the lineout being there. The French used the scrum half because, erm, well, they're French.

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