Rugby: Taylor a wily (young) Fox

Tom Taylor is kicking at 92 percent in this year's Super Rugby competition. Photo / Getty Images.
Tom Taylor is kicking at 92 percent in this year's Super Rugby competition. Photo / Getty Images.

It will come as little surprise to learn Tom Taylor mentally repeats a phrase, once used by Grant Fox, before every kick at goal.

Taylor, who is kicking at 92 per cent in this year's Super Rugby competition, says 'head down, follow through' before each kick. It's an expression used by many goal kickers but Taylor's connection to it is more legitimate than most.

The Crusaders' first five-eighths is son of former All Blacks' second five-eighths Warwick Taylor, who played most of his 24 tests outside a certain Grant Fox who is still regarded as one of the best goal kickers in rugby history.

Taylor junior has missed only two of his 25 attempts so far this season - he struck the post against the Hurricanes and dipped under the bar with a long-range effort against the Waratahs - and it's a principal reason why he will continue in the No 10 jersey against the Reds in Christchurch on Sunday and keep Dan Carter at second five-eighths.

Taylor is a largely self-taught goal kicker. His father has given him some pointers, including Fox's refrain, and he also received some tutelage from former All Blacks' kicking coach Mick Byrne but Taylor has continually searched for, and found, a technique that has worked for him.

"I've always been a goal kicker since I was a young kid and always loved practicing all parts of my kicking," he said. "I put quite a bit of time into it. This year has been going pretty well so I just have to keep that going.

"I think I've found a really solid technique. It's probably taken me all my life to find. I've really only started kicking well in the last couple of years when I found a technique that I like and I've stuck with that. I'm feeling pretty confident out there and know I can trust it at any stage."

It's an asset to any side, and the 31 points (one try, nine kicks) he scored against the Stormers was a franchise record. Significantly, Carter missed three relatively easy kicks in the two-point loss to the Bulls - their last defeat in the competition - in the only occasion he has been handed the kicking tee this season.

Taylor is much more than just a goal kicker but it still sounds erroneous to suggest the Crusaders are building momentum for a tilt at their eighth Super Rugby title with the world's best first five-eighths playing out of position.

The pair could switch but coach Todd Blackadder sees little point in changing a winning combination, and has said they won't contemplate it until Carter is fit enough to goal kick.

It suits Taylor in only his first season of Super Rugby. The 23-year-old has already played more this season than he expected but isn't satisfied yet.

"I have just been getting picked lately so I'm really happy with that and just want to keep pushing myself forward and improving, and hope I can keep that spot," he said. "I want to play there if I can. The coaches are picking me, so I'm happy."

Blackadder has made only one change to the Crusaders lineup to face the Reds, which is a repeat of last season's final. Wing Sean Maitland came through training today and is expected to start on the wing but All Blacks' captain Richie McCaw remains on the bench as he continues his rehabilitation from his long-term foot injury.

Crusaders team to play the Reds at AMI Stadium, Christchurch, on Sunday (4pm): Israel Dagg, Sean Maitland/Adam Whitelock, Robbie Fruean, Dan Carter, Zac Guildford, Tom Taylor, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Tom Donnelly, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Samuel Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Willi Heinz, Ryan Crotty, Tom Marshall.

- APNZ

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