COMMENT

Astute kicking is as dangerous as any expansive running game in international rugby.

At times it is even better and the top seeds will use it as a key weapon in the sudden-death World Cup inferno later this season.

The All Blacks moved that tactic up a notch using Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett as twin threats either side of the ruck in Europe on the end of year campaign while England have gone to new levels in the Six Nations.

Advertisement

They have a mix of attacking left and right foot kickers with Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Henry Slade and Elliot Daly while Jonny May is a huge threat on the wing with his speed and deft kick and chase game.

A range of issues will convince teams that success at the World Cup in Japan depends on a persuasive kicking game and not spending too much time in their own half.

Think referees, rules, defensive lines, penalties, sudden-death, strong goalkicking — a whole bunch of reasons why the favoured sides will resort more to the boot than they do on other occasions.

Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie. Photo / Photosport
Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie. Photo / Photosport

Defensive lines are always hovering on the offside margins and teams in possession will want to first test the match officials' eyesight and the reliability of the tacklers. As those tactics evolve, playmakers like Barrett and Farrell will scan the field to see how the opposition sweeper is deploying his teammates and covering his duties.

Crosskicks as passes to teammates or to challenge shorter rival wings, toe pokes through the line in the middle of Twickenham as England did for Chris Ashton to latch on to, high contestable kicks outside marking territory in the opposition 22 or grubbers to pressure a defensive 5m lineout are valuable tools.

Accurate kicking from turnovers creates havoc for scramble defences who are caught between covering each other and the width of the field.

Let's not avoid dropped goals. They have greater impact in the dying stages of a close contest but Barrett's first in 71 tests at Twickenham last year was equally valuable. England outscored the All Blacks two tries to one but his dropped goal under advantage early in the second half helped find the victory.

There's been only one in this year's Six Nations and it's unlikely we'll see a bunch in Super Rugby but it'll be in every side's playbook for the World Cup in November.