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BLOG 10 COACHES CORNER: Kicking an art or last resort?
Blog 9 will follow this week and will be a development of Blog 8 which focused on rucks.
It is the end of the season for schools rugby, just past the mid-point in the Six Nations and coming into the crucial games in all senior leagues. Wins and losses are the most important now for all involved and sometimes tactics can change in these parts of the season as the pressure of making that game changing error can be all too much for the players.
One such tactic you may have noticed is the increase in kicking and this sometimes monotonous aerial ping-pong that plagues not just professional rugby but often amateur rugby too. I am not meaning a well crafted cross field kick or some of the inspirational kicks that out-halves have been seen to do and drive their opposition depth into their own territory; it is more the higher percentage of return kicking by the full-back when they have fielding a miss-kick by the opposition. There is evidence of these changes in tactics by internationals who made a name for themselves by being an excellent counter attacking player but then becomes more of a kick return full back. We just need to look at Lee Byrne or Rob Kearney who stormed on the scene as excellent counter attacking full backs but not mix up their game with return kicking instead of trying to keep possession and running it back. It is an interesting thought though, to think is it the ball catching player deciding to kick or are they forced to kick? If the wings do not come back to support the ball-catcher then they are forced with little other choice but to kick the ball away.
Have a look at the following example:
The above diagram shows the kick of a scrum, this would usually be kicked down field if the ball has been passed back into the 22m. The above example shows the movement that the wings should run if the ball is kicked down to the 15 (I know my small figures all have balls in their hands but the ball carrier is the one who has one hand up). So if the ball is played to the 15 then the blind side and open side wing should be moving back to give other options rather than just returning the kick.
There are three things the catching player needs to look out for… How structured the oncoming defenders are, where the catching players supporting wingers are and where the larger mass of players (namely the set of opposition forwards) are coming from. From the example above the forwards are coming from the left hand side so there should not be an attacking option in that area. However there should be space on the right hand side which is labelled on the diagram. If the left hand side wing was to run the arc of the large red arrow and the right hand side wing moved backwards then the ball catcher can engage the defenders directly in front of them and still hopefully create the over-lap to attack the space on the right of the pitch.
This allows an extra option for the catcher instead of just kicking the ball back and ultimately losing possession. This is only one option in a multitude of attacking plays and the world of counterattack needs you as the coach to try to break the mould of kicking counterattacking. The only issue that remains for the catcher is the time they have between catching the ball and making their decision… But that is for the opposition 10 to decide! I never said it was easy!