Why Is All The Pressure On The Fly Half To Kick?

number 10

There has been a trend in rugby throughout time for the fly half to be a sides primary goal kicker, but is this really the most constructive practice?

Now there’s no doubt that playing with 10 on your back comes with a certain amount of pressure. Much like the Quarterback in American Football, the fly half is a rugby teams chief playmaker and as such they must deal with a weight of expectation. For this pressure however they are often handsomely rewarded, and therefore should be expected to deal with the pressures right?

For the most part this is true, much like in any organisation, the top earners have to deal with extra stresses as their position often requires additional responsibilities. The question I have however is should there really be so much expectation on fly halves to kick for goal?

For some reason, over the years there has been such a laser focus on the fly half to kick for goal, that other potential candidates are often overlooked such duties. Now there are obviously exceptions to this as certain players emerge in a side with a bigger boot, or a better kicking percentage – Leigh Halfpenny for example, but these examples are few and far between.

As ever the French like to do things a little differently, however the responsibility often boils down to Le Petit General, better known around the world as the scrum half. This still places additional pressures on a player who already has enough positional responsibilities to contend with.

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That’s not to say that the fly half shouldn’t kick necessarily, just that they should only do so if they are the most qualified person for the job. In pretty much any other walk of life you find the person with the most developed skills for job, usually performs that function. In rugby however the view is often so myopic that from a very young age it is often only the fly half who takes the kicks at goal.

Instead we should be coaching youngsters in all ages to take kicks at goal, and developing the ones who show the most promise. Whether it be a lock or a centre, it shouldn’t matter, the person best equipped for the task should be the one to do it instead of focussing on the glamour of the 10 jersey. Surely taking some of the pressure off one of the most pressured players in a side would do the team a world of good?

The issue is that often one fly half is selected over another for their goal kicking percentage, just look at England right now. Would you honestly say that Owen Farrell is a better fly half ball in hand than say George Ford or even Danny Cipriani? However, his ability to kick penalties and conversions consistently has ensured he has kept control of the number 10 jersey over the last few years.

Imagine if someone like Mike Brown, or for arguments sake even Chris Robshaw had a solid goal kicking percentage, would England still be sacrificing their fly halfs play making for goal kicking or would they instead be focussing on developing their best backline?

For some reason we seem to be continually sacrificing players with natural skill ball in hand, for ones who are capable of kicking points. Whilst there’s no doubt that kicking the points is now a key part of rugby, if we developed more goal kickers then we could instead focus on selecting the best XV possible, rather than sacrificing certain skills in order to shoehorn goal kickers into teams.

It’s not often a take something positive from football, but it is rare that just one individual is tasked with taking penalties and free kicks. Instead a range of players develop these skills, and as such the pressure is dissipated throughout the team meaning players can concentrate on their own game, and step up if needs be.

The other benefit this distribution of labour is that you can have a number of kickers throughout a team, each able to offer something slightly different. For example you could have a close range kicker with a high percentage from within 30 – 40 yards, and another player whose maybe not as accurate, but who is capable of knocking them over from 50+ yards. This gives your side options right across the pitch.

The same could be said for right and left footed players both being given the opportunity to kick from different areas of the pitch. Surely anything that gives a team a slight edge in this respect should be explored when the margins can be so small in games?

There has been a trend in rugby throughout time for the fly half to be a sides primary goal kicker, but is this really the most constructive practice?

Now there’s no doubt that playing with 10 on your back comes with a certain amount of pressure. Much like the Quarterback in American Football, the fly half is a rugby teams chief playmaker and as such they must deal with a weight of expectation. For this pressure however they are often handsomely rewarded, and therefore should be expected to deal with the pressures right?

For the most part this is true, much like in any organisation, the top earners have to deal with extra stresses as their position often requires additional responsibilities. The question I have however is should there really be so much expectation on fly halves to kick for goal?

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For some reason, over the years there has been such a laser focus on the fly half to kick for goal, that other potential candidates are often overlooked such duties. Now there are obviously exceptions to this as certain players emerge in a side with a bigger boot, or a better kicking percentage – Leigh Halfpenny for example, but these examples are few and far between.

As ever the French like to do things a little differently, however the responsibility often boils down to Le Petit General, better known around the world as the scrum half. This still places additional pressures on a player who already has enough positional responsibilities to contend with.

That’s not to say that the fly half shouldn’t kick necessarily, just that they should only do so if they are the most qualified person for the job. In pretty much any other walk of life you find the person with the most developed skills for job, usually performs that function. In rugby however the view is often so myopic that from a very young age it is often only the fly half who takes the kicks at goal.

Instead we should be coaching youngsters in all ages to take kicks at goal, and developing the ones who show the most promise. Whether it be a lock or a centre, it shouldn’t matter, the person best equipped for the task should be the one to do it instead of focussing on the glamour of the 10 jersey. Surely taking some of the pressure off one of the most pressured players in a side would do the team a world of good?

The issue is that often one fly half is selected over another for their goal kicking percentage, just look at England right now. Would you honestly say that Owen Farrell is a better fly half ball in hand than say George Ford or even Danny Cipriani? However, his ability to kick penalties and conversions consistently has ensured he has kept control of the number 10 jersey over the last few years.

Imagine if someone like Mike Brown, or for arguments sake even Chris Robshaw had a solid goal kicking percentage, would England still be sacrificing their fly halfs play making for goal kicking or would they instead be focussing on developing their best backline?

For some reason we seem to be continually sacrificing players with natural skill ball in hand, for ones who are capable of kicking points. Whilst there’s no doubt that kicking the points is now a key part of rugby, if we developed more goal kickers then we could instead focus on selecting the best XV possible, rather than sacrificing certain skills in order to shoehorn goal kickers into teams.

It’s not often a take something positive from football, but it is rare that just one individual is tasked with taking penalties and free kicks. Instead a range of players develop these skills, and as such the pressure is dissipated throughout the team meaning players can concentrate on their own game, and step up if needs be.

The other benefit this distribution of labour is that you can have a number of kickers throughout a team, each able to offer something slightly different. For example you could have a close range kicker with a high percentage from within 30 – 40 yards, and another player whose maybe not as accurate, but who is capable of knocking them over from 50+ yards. This gives your side options right across the pitch.

The same could be said for right and left footed players both being given the opportunity to kick from different areas of the pitch. Surely anything that gives a team a slight edge in this respect should be explored when the margins can be so small in games?

Do you think there should be less pressure on the fly half to take kicks at goal?

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2 comments

  1. There is not pressure on the Fly Half to be the teams kicker. In fact looking around at the 6 Nations half of the teams do not have their 10 as the primary kicking option: France (Machenaud/Kockott/Yachvili/Michalak, all scrum halves), Scotland (Laidlaw) and Wales (Halfpenny).

    The idea that the 10 has to kick is based on a generation growing up watching virtually every tier one nation with excellent kickers at that position in the early 2000’s (Argentina – Contepomi, Australia – Lynagh, England – Wilkinson, France – Castaignede, Ireland – Humphreys/O’Gara, Italy – Domingez, New Zealand – Mehrtens/Carter, Wales – Jenkins/Jones). The only real exceptions were Percy Montgomery and Chris Paterson. Much in the same way young children playing football wanted to wear 7 and take all the free kicks like their idols Beckham and Ronaldo, young rugby players want to emulate the 10’s.

    Teams using multiple kickers are not a new idea. Think about Halfpenny and Hogg making attempts at goal out of the range of the regular kickers.

    The fact that you generally want the best kicker outside the scrum half consistently would generally tend towards the 10 developing as a goal kicker as he develops his all around game. The tactical requirements cause this.

    As such, since Wilkinson quit the international scene, England has been obsessed with finding their next Johnny at 10. This has limited their options drastically. Australia for example have fielded back lines with multiple recognised kickers (Cooper, Beale, O’Connor and Leali’ifano). Wales have also done this (Biggar, Hook and Halfpenny), and traditionally both nations have produced footballing backs.

    However all children should be encouraged to develop all their skills, regardless of position. The most skilful team in the world is New Zealand and that makes them the best in the world.

  2. John Eales and Zinzan Brooke were mad kickers and they were forwards. Sure, a lock forward and a Number Eight, but still forwards nonetheless

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