banner ad


| 12/02/2021

Your Scribe having prevailed in rugby football at Bridgwater & Albion for the past 56 seasons is somewhat aghast at the crass play which affects all levels of the game from Dirtrackers and Colts’ sides right through to the Premiership and Internationals.  The main gripe concerns the somewhat errant, haphazard and abysmal kicking from hand.  Just to put the point in perspective, when your writer was learning the game, it was drummed into him by school masters that you do not kick the ball to the opposition.  On joining Bridgwater & Albion, coaches again highlighted the point.  Indeed when I came in to the 1st XV just out of Colts the then senior players (forwards) took me aside to say that No. 9 was a decision-maker and if you kicked then please make sure that the ball was in front of the forwards.  They did not wish to go backwards or across the field.  Lessons were quickly learned and I have relished the responsibility.  In those days you could kick to touch from any part of the field and surprisingly make a mark anywhere.  In 1971 the Laws were changed so that direct kicking outside of the 22 meant loss of ground.  So what happened then – the renowned up and unders took prominence – later re-invented as the “box kick”.  People think that this latter tactic is new – it is donkeys years old.  The only problem is that the kicks of yore were somewhat more accurate than those which we see now.  Later on the introduction of the free kick bamboozled many – but not the real tacticians who made hay. 

There is still this begrudging thought of giving the opposition the ball willy-nilly.  We see now at all grades of rugby football kicking exchanges from one 22 to the other which could last up to seven or eight phases.  What is wrong with getting the ball into touch either directly from inside your own 22 or tactically outside of it.  There is still much room for the tactician.  After all, look at a line-out and what can happen there – the thrower-in may get it wrong; the lifters may miss their timing; the jumper may miss the ball; the ball may go right over the top (ask Cowan – Dickie who has scored many tries from opposition failures); we may even plunder the opposition’s throw-in.  So what is wrong with kicking the ball into touch in the opposition’s 22 on their throw-in – it is a damn sight more difficult for them to make the extra 80 yards than it is for us to go the final 22. 

From an absolute cynic’s point of view, I would advocate changing the laws so that referees would be empowered to penalise crass play of any description and particularly these kicking episodes.  For example, after there have been four kick and catch exchanges i.e. two each side, if the fifth did not go into touch or was mis-handled by the opposition, then I would award a penalty to the non-kicking side with the option of a scrum where the kick came from or a penalty where it went into touch or was fielded.  That may put an end to such speculative and certainly unentertaining play.  Food for thought and no doubt many will agree. 

The only good “box kick” is one which goes into touch – then it is called a clearance or one which the opposition drop or your men get to first.  If the opposition catch it and play it, it is no good. 

Even some kicks down field which avoid the opposition’s direct clutches are not that well placed – always use the width of the field – press to the touchline and corners – hem the opposition in and make it more difficult for them.  Scribe can recall playing against a former International full-back who generally congratulated him on his tactical kicking but suggested that he might have stretched the full-back a little bit more.  Ironically, Scribe encountered the same opponent in the next season and after the game received the thumbs up – lessons had been learned! 

Scribe has just watched the first weekend of the 2021 Six Nations and my word atrocious kicking from all sides.  In addition, the Premiership matches involving Bristol v Bath and Bristol v Sale and also Newcastle v Exeter were full of very poor decision-making.

Take the England v Scotland match.  Why on earth would anyone want to kick the ball directly to Stuart Hogg who is capable of running it back miles against you or as he showed several times – kicking with some pinpoint accuracy to the deep corner touchlines.  Players seem to forget that the touchlines are your sixteenth and seventeenth players – they are worth their weight in white paint.  All back threes are usually extremely competent in fielding and kicking a ball – there are of course exceptions as Jonny May demonstrated.  Why give them time on the ball.  Would anyone in their right mind kick to Charles Pitiau of Bristol?

Scribe can recall being Bridgwater & Albion’s first ever injury replacement when he came onto the right wing in the third minute of a match against St Ives.  The opposition No. 10’s eyes lit up as Scribe clearly did not look like a winger – he never was.  Scribe expected a bombardment and here it came but after the first kick was successfully caught and despatched, here was another again similarly dealt with.  However that was it as far as Scribe was concerned and beyond a few defensive tackles, that was the end of his game.  The No. 10 tried his luck elsewhere. 

Towards the end of his career Scribe was loaned out to opposition teams and duly appeared again on the right wing against Somerton on the back pitch against our Dirtrackers.  Imagine Scribe’s surprise to receive not one but four or five direct kicks from his own normal stand-off.  He could not believe his luck – they were all caught and despatched appropriately.  As the teams changed over for half time Scribe quizzed Frosty – the culprit – as to why he kept kicking to him – at least make me run backwards or forwards or sideways – you know I can catch and kick.  Were these lessons learned? 

Some of you may have read that the lawmakers are intent on making some changes here but guess what they have in mind?  They are intending to reward players who can kick a ball from inside their own half but which bounces into touch inside the opposition’s 22 with a throw-in.  Now of course you can do that but the opposition get the throw-in.  Perhaps that will change minds. 

I always thought that one of the aims of the game was to make the task for the opposition harder and not for your own side so why give free ball away.   The kick to touch is still a useful weapon except like Billy Burns against Wales when he could not find the mark at a vital time. 

I will be watching with some considerable interest to see if these views are taken to heart and actually employed on the field to give everyone a much more entertaining game and at least make players think that they should be pressurising the opposition more rather than give them free ball. 

Phew – I am glad I have got that off my chest. 


Looking for a meeting room.  Check out our Conferencing and Training venue
Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook

Tags: , , ,

Category: Club News

Comments are closed.