I don’t know if you watched the match at Kingsholm last night – thanks to BT I wasted a couple of hours in the company of Gloucester v The Tigers. It was a game that could have rivalled the Globe as a production of ‘A Comedy of Errors’ and I would have had more fun if I’d turned over for a re-run of ‘Are you being served’ (no – not really but it would have been a marginal call)
In fact it is calls that I want to talk about today and to offer a belated apology to all the Askean forwards who I disparaged at the time for their abilities in the lineout. Also for the continued disparagement in these pages over the last few months.
Before the match kicked off the programme ran a sort of tutorial on the lineout and how the calls are made. It was run by Ben Kay and Martin Bayfield who know a lot more about forward play than I do – although to be fair my cat would also qualify for that particular accolade.
According to Ben (Kay not Bob obviously – although if you haven’t read the bit on nicknames you will be seriously confused – so just ignore that) – anyway he said that there are 8 calls made for each lineout – 6 of these are drop outs (I think that’s what he said – I was already befuddled by this stage). The other two are the planned options with the decision made after the other team have lined up and the bloke who is calling the line turns up. With me so far? I’m not surprised my head was spinning too at this stage and I had the benefit of a visual guide and a bunch of guys moving back and forward under Ben’s direction.
It then gets even more complex as one of the other 6 calls can be made if, apparently, the opportunity presents itself in the heat of the moment. Like what? One of the opposition forwards having a heart attack? The ref is looking the other way? Don’t ask me – Ben, for all his articulate descriptions didn’t specify exactly how or why the switch to any of these would be made.
Whilst I was even more confused than I had been before this expert advice I have to say my admiration for the forwards went up immensely – mind you that doesn’t raise it all that far.
I have no idea if blokes like Lunny, Rupert, Peety, Doggy, Jimmy, Chas, Kieran, Les, Black Alex, the Kevs (Acott and Burnett), Graham Evans et al had anywhere near this level of complicated plans for the lineout – I suspect not, but it does underline that it is potentially more a science than the lottery that I always thought it was. I don’t mean that you need Brian Cox playing up front but having some basic education in counting into double figures and a knowledge of colours is bound to be helpful I imagine. This would obviously have been a challenge for some props – especially anywhere west of Reading.
I’m guessing we actually only had one call each time – and to be fair, although I often overheard the forwards deciding what the match day system would be in the changing room I never really understood how it worked – mind you since I always did my best to keep away from the rough stuff that they, for some perverse reason, seemed to enjoy, I had no real interest in knowing about it anyway.
When I first started I often played on the wing – at school and in my first season at the club – at that time it was numbers 14 and 11 who chucked the ball back into play – I can’t be sure (it was nearly 50 years ago) but I don’t remember anyone giving me a system of organised methods for determining who I should try and toss it in the general direction of. Mind you I have a job remembering what I had for breakfast these days so there might well have been a level of organisation albeit primitive (which was very much like our forwards)
It may have simply been that someone’s name was shouted out and we assumed (hoped) that our opponents didn’t know who that was – although I suppose that ‘Black Alex’ would have been a bit of a giveaway.
Even that wouldn’t have been much use since as a newcomer to the club I didn’t know (or want to know) many of the ugly blokes in low numbered shirts – and in the EX A the team changed almost every week anyway so it would have been hard to keep up (something else I have always struggled with)
I suspect that we simply worked on the basis that the bloke who wanted it just held his hand up – this would have been a pretty good wheeze since it was very unlikely that I could lob it anywhere near the vicinity of this chap. So – whilst he was being assaulted by the opposition who expected him to get the ball it actually landed in some other poor sods grasp and off we went!
So – to all those forwards I played with over the years – my sincere apologies – but trust me – that doesn’t let you off all the times you dragged me into a ruck just as I was trying desperately to fuck off out of the way!