• The Scourge of the Aimless Kick

    The below-par All Black performance against France was – sadly – afflicted, again, by what has become a feature of New Zealand rugby – the scourge of the aimless kick.

    It is surely a truism that, to win a rugby match, you must have the ball. But time and time again, we see our rugby players – in provincial rugby as well as at international level – deliberately give away good possession with an aimless kick down field.

    There may be several good reasons for kicking the ball away. It may be seen as a painless way to gain territory; but if that is the aim, then the ball must either land within reach of your own advancing players, so that they can contest for it, or it must find the touchline where a lineout (assuming that, notwithstanding that the opponents will have the throw-in, it is successful) might provide a chance to launch an attack. A well-placed kick might perhaps be seen as an attacking weapon that will put opponents under pressure as they field it, but then the same requirements of precision and “reachability” will apply.

    If, however the ball is kicked so that it lands in the arms of one’s opponents, or lands in open space where it can be gathered up by those opponents, the kick represents nothing more than an invitation to grateful opponents to run it back, something the French did all too well.

    The lesson is, surely, that it better to be in possession, even if in your own half of the field, than to present your opponents with an opportunity to launch an attack against you. It will almost always be safer and more profitable to run the ball out of a defensive position than to risk having it run back by one’s opponents.

    One thing is surely clear – to hoof the ball down field without regard for what the opponents might do with it when it is presented to them is a recipe for disaster. Any follower of the game can recognise all too easily when that mistake is made. Don’t coaches see it too?