Ex-Scotland full-back Ian Smith bemoans the lack of spiral kicking in the modern game

Rugby Rant: Bring back screw kicking

WATCHING A skilled kicker, particularly a fly-half, is a wonderful sight. As a child I spent hours playing the kicking game ‘Gaining Ground’. At schoolboy camps you’d kick in gym shoes with no socks; it was a leather ball and if you didn’t catch it on the right part of your foot it hurt like hell.

I was taught to screw-kick and could punt a leather ball 60 yards from boot to ground 50 years ago. It’s sad how rarely we see it used in the modern game.

I’ve been told the (end-over-end) kick they use today has less room for error. But the screw (or spiral) kick is a lethal attacking weapon. And as well as the huge distance it provides, it reduces the risk of a charge-down because the ball isn’t being thrown up by the hand.

I got in the Edinburgh Schools side when I was  16 or 17. At training, they said, “Kenny Scotland’s here, do you want somebody to kick with?” And that was the real eye-opener time. He could make the ball spin. He’d say, “Stand by the corner flag and kick the ball between the posts.” And the only way to do that is with a screw kick.

The technique is simple; in fact, I once taught it to Charlton Kerr (now England Sevens) at a party in 20 minutes. Point the ball up the touchline and strike it with the outside of your foot; kick through the ball, bringing your leg up high over the other shoulder. It is bound to spin.

“If you do it vertically, there’s no way a full-back can stand his ground and take it”

If you get the ball travelling flat, it will come out of the screw and into a screw going the other way and then go back again. So it’s like an S-shape. When that happens the ball goes for miles. And if you can do it vertically, there’s no way a full-back can stand his ground and take it. Or jump for it.

At the dinner after the 1971 Scotland v Wales match, Barry John came up to me. I’d dropped the first ‘up and under’, losing the ball 20 feet in the air because it stopped flying properly. It just fell out of the sky. Barry said, “You didn’t know what was happening, did you? I’ve been experimenting with running left but kicking it off the outside of my right foot because it doesn’t fly properly.” That is genius.

For up and unders, aim at the player; don’t make him run for it, land it to make him stand still. If you’re pinned waiting for the ball it’s a nightmare.
I don’t understand why modern  kickers do it the way they do nowadays. It seems to me such a weird and illogical kicking method. It obviously works but it’s not a thing of beauty.

If a youngster wants to screw-kick, find someone who can teach you. Then go away and play a lot of kicking games.

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