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Stephen Jones on kicking tactics

All modern day backs need an instinctive kicking game if they want to reach the heights of international rugby.

Wales fly-half Stephen Jones explains the merits of the different kicks and how to use them to your advantage.

THE THEORY

The secret is knowing when to kick and where to kick. You have to be able to kick at the right time and to the right place.

Stephen Jones in kicking practice for the Lions in New Zealand
Time to put the boot in

Most of the time it's instinctive. You react to what's happening on the pitch - and that's something that comes with experience.

There are lots of different types of kick you can use. Which one you choose will depend on what's going on around you.

Always be aware of your team-mates and keep an eye on the opposition too - especially the full-back and wingers.

Identify weaknesses in their defence and be ready to react if you catch them out of position.

Other factors such as the weather, the scoreline and how much time there is left will also come into play.

Remember the more kicks you can master, the more tricks you have up your sleeve.

Put in plenty of practise because it's important for kicks to be accurate. A poor kick will just gift the ball to the opposition.

KICK TO TOUCH

Kicking to touch

A kick that reaches touch safely can be a tremendous boost to a team under pressure.

If it goes wrong though, you could end up giving the ball away to the opposition.

Fail to find touch - and there's a real danger that could happen.

So, while you need to get distance on the ball it's even more important to be accurate.

Remember you can only kick straight to touch if you're behind your own 22m line.

Anywhere else on the pitch and the ball must bounce first before crossing the sideline.

If it goes straight in, the line-out will be brought back to where the ball was kicked instead of where it went out.

That means you're not gaining any ground, so it's a wasted kick.

You can kick to touch using a straightforward punt.

Or you can put spin on the ball which makes it spiral through the air, giving it distance.

This is called a screw ball.

DROP-KICK

Drop-kick

It's one of the trickiest kicks to master but one of the most rewarding.

The ball must touch the ground before being kicked, so it's vital to get the timing right.

Worth three points if you get it through the uprights, a drop kick is a good tactic to use against a well-organised defence.

So if you're within range of the posts it might well be worth a pop.

It could even be a match-winner - just ask Jonny Wilkinson!

When drop kicks are used to restart matches the ball must go at least 10m.

Here, the secret is to get the ball to hang high in the air, giving your forwards time to get underneath it.

UP-AND-UNDER

Up-and-under

This is your chance to really give the ball some welly!

But it's height, not distance that counts here.

You need to put the ball as high up into the air as you can.

The more hang time, the more chance for your team to get under the ball - and the more pressure on the opposition.

These kicks can be pretty hair-raising if you're on the receiving end!

One thing - you can't just sit back and admire your fancy footwork once the ball has left your boot.

Any team-mates in front of you when you kick the ball will be offside so you must run forward to put them onside.

An up-and-under is sometimes called a Garryowen after the team in Ireland who used it all the time.

GRUBBER AND CHIP

Chip kick

A grubber kick is a low kick along the ground usually used in attacking situations close to the opposition try line.

Use it to put the ball behind the opposition as they're coming towards you.

That way, you force them to stop and turn.

And with the ball on the floor, even a covering defender will find it awkward to collect.

Remember you can't be tackled if you haven't got the ball!

You can use the chip-and-chase to out-manoeuvre your marker just as they're about to catch you.

It should be a short, shallow kick over or around your opponent.

Then once the ball has left your boot, be prepared to follow up and gather it.

Get a lucky bounce and you'll look like the classiest player on the pitch!

BOX AND CROSS KICK

Box kick

A box kick is a high over-the-shoulder kick used mostly by scrum-halves in tight attacking or defensive situations.

Usually taken from a scrum or a line-out on the blindside, or short side, of the pitch.

It can catch the defence unaware because they expect the ball to be passed out.

Instead, the scrum-half aims to place the ball behind the opposition forwards.

Wingers are usually in on the move too so they can chase the kick up.

A cross kick is diagonal kick across the pitch usually to the openside and beyond the last defender.

A well-timed, well-placed cross kick can catch the defence out of position, leaving space for the attacking team to gather and score out wide.

Remember to signal to the rest of your team-mates so they know the move is on!



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