James Horwill chargin down a kick from Aaron Cruden of the All Blacks, during the World Cup

No matter what level you play at, there’s a range of kicks that every team should have in its locker. Dan Cottrell of betterrugbycoaching.com explains what they are and when to use them.

You can’t always make touch with a kick and sometimes you don’t want to anyway. Kicking into touch gives the opposition the throw-in and so, in all likelihood, first-phase possession.

Instead, you can make your kicks contestable or containable. These kicks come in two parts: the kick and the chase. In both cases, the kick is only as good as the chase, and in some cases a poor kick can be still be made good by the chase.

A contestable kick means both sides compete for the ball in the air. Either the kicker or his chasing team reach the dropping point of the kick with the opposition. The best outcomes range from retrieving the ball outright to making the opposition knock on.

Even if the opposition catch the ball, a good chase puts the catcher on the ground, with the defence moving forward and the opposition scrambling back.

A containable kick pushes the ball behind the defence, with the chasers reducing the time and space to run back. The kick needs to do two things: first, to make defenders run to the ball, ideally so they have to bend down to pick it up. Second, to force the defender on to his weaker side. For example, a right-footed full-back prefers to retrieve a ball running to his right as he doesn’t have to readjust as much to kick the ball.

The containable kick needs at least two lines of chasers. The first line spreads across the field and comes up together with around ten to 12 players. The kicker and two or three others sit behind them to cover any kicks back. Some teams might send a quick player ahead to rush any decision.

Get-out-of-jail kicks
Kicking to touch means giving up the lineout ball. However, it’s still a valid option in your own half.

First, it will force the opposition further from your line. Contesting a high ball on the 22m line from your clearing kick is high risk.You won’t want to allow the opposition to counter-attack when you might be disorganised, so better to challenge their lineout and be reset in the back-line.

Second, when the team is tired, a lineout and a chance to gather your breath is welcome. Defending another attack isn’t desirable, no matter how good your chase.

Weather kicks
On wet days, sometimes it’s better to let the opposition have the ball and let them make the mistakes. Use a variety of high kicks, box kicks and low, driving kicks. The variety pulls the defence out of position. It’s better to err on the side of longer kicks because territory is important on wet days.

On windy days, it’s better to keep the ball in hand with the wind in your face. If necessary, use contestable kicks to attempt to retain possession. Kicks to touch will catch the wind and not gain much territory. With the wind, kick out of your 22m area with containable kicks and then keep the ball in hand in their half.

Surprise kicks
There are a few trick kicks that aren’t hard to execute and can surprise opponents because of the timing.

The first is to kick against the grain of play. Often from a set-piece, the defence follows the ball across the field. So, if the No 10 receives a pass from a lineout on the right-hand touchline and he’s moving with the pass from right to left, he can suddenly change his angles and kick right.

It may be that the defence originally covering for a kick into that area has now moved away and the ball bounces into an open space. A good chase might win possession and produce a clear route to the try-line.

Another surprise kick we’re seeing more of from teams like the All Blacks is the chip or grubber out of the 22. With defences set up to close down the attack quickly and also cover the long clearance, there’s often a significant gap behind the first line of defence. So this surprise kick can lead to retention of the ball and a great attacking opportunity.

This article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.


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