The Rugby Coaching Manual
Once you have spent long hours in formulating a kicking policy, wait for a while before you let your players know what it is and check that you have the people with the kicking skills to carry it (or parts of it) out. There is little point in impressing your team with your vast well of knowledge on how to use kicks if the kicking personnel are thin on the ground, non existent or plain useless.
Once you decide that you do have the kicker(s) that you need, it is very important that they practise in a structured way. It seems very simple to suggest that you will go long at a certain point in a game, but the appointed kicker needs to be pretty certain that the skill he is about to perform has been used a few times in the previous week’s and weeks’ training. Too often a kick is a last resort when all other reasonable options have disappeared; the kick is then the last chance saloon scenario and that explains why it is often cobbled together and ends up unsuccessfully. The trouble is that it looks so easy when the players impress each other on training nights before the hard work begins. Props preen and display awesome leg power in propelling the ball to all areas of the globe, but they are unlikely to have the opportunity in the league match on Saturday.
You can organise some basic structures that will be relatively straightforward. But I stress, the kick needs practice and the follow-up or chase must be a regular chore for the whole team. You must not see strategic kicking as a one-man job; the other fourteen have a duty to know exactly what is expected of them and it generally requires running fast after an instant response to the kick. However, they cannot afford to neglect precise instructions on who stays well back as a safety precaution if the opponents decide to whack it straight back to you. You will need a policy and it will almost certainly require two players who have a decent return kick from hand, so consider leaving back some combination of full back, winger(s) and fly half.
You may have only one or perhaps two kickers who can reliably kick long, so try to ensure that one or both do not chase a long kick in case the opponents immediately kick back long to you. Get another player to work hard to get behind the initial kicker before the ball is kicked so that he can then chase the kick from an onside position and work other players onside who were initially in front of the kicker
And if you have a kicking plan or policy, it is a good idea to let the rest of the team, especially the forwards, know what is about to happen. There are all sorts of ways to achieve this, but you need to keep it simple and you could do worse than have a signal with the player’s number followed by a position on the pitch where the kick will go (or might go, in some cases).
You have already split the pitch into four areas (based on the width of the pitch) to signal where the ball is likely to go from a called move in the backs (See page xxxx). The numbers are exactly the same for kicking , 1, 2, 3 and 4. You just start the signal with the letter K, showing a kick, then add a number for the area of the pitch you will be aiming for.
When you use the box kick, it must be seen as a means of regaining possession and not just a ploy to relieve pressure. It is nearly always carried out on the right, but is perfectly acceptable if the scrum half is left footed and/or can get the precision on the left.
The first requirement is to get height on the ball and not to send it too far. Your chasing winger should then jump for the ball and try to catch it. If his opponent catches it, he should be tackled and preferably into touch. There should be a pincers movement with a flanker, usually the openside, coming into the ball as well. Then a centre ought to sprint behind their would-be catcher in case he aimlessly taps the ball back. You do not have to follow this formula slavishly and a centre could be part of the pincers with the 7 going behind where the kick lands.
However, do coach your scrum half and winger to watch closely what is happening. If their defending winger is well back, why box kick to him? Just pass to your own winger and let him run into an unguarded area, which will be far more productive than kicking to a man who is already back there and waiting for the ball.
There is a useful game that can be run by the players themselves – and kicking is key to success. Play on a full pitch with 3 v 3 and it is a good idea to play your back 3 players against three others – 3 of the same team backs or perhaps the back 3 from the seconds. There can be a very useful discipline and fitness aspect to the game as well.
The game does make players very aware of where spaces are and where the defenders are standing and puts a premium on kicking to space rather than to opponents.
The Rugby Coaching Manual is now available for easy order from Amazon. This book will greatly help any rugby coach whether they are an old pro or overseeing their first training sessions. For more tips or information on the book, please visit The Rugby Coaching Manual official site. And check out a preview of the other chapters from the book on Rugby Rugby.
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