All the hype before the England Wales game was surrounding England’s kicking game. Notably the BBC were showing various statistics and percentages just to illustrate how dominant England had been in their previous two outings.
Prior to the game Eddie Jones insisted that the players would respond to “what was happening on the pitch” rather than a premeditated volume of kicking.
It was clear from the game the England struggled to do this. It was obvious and noted by many how little England carried the ball even when their kicks were not effective. Manu Tuilagi, Billy Vunipola and the pace of Jonny May were largely unused talents.
Here we observe the challenge of the whole team changing its mindset within a game. It is easy to kick the ball every time. It is easy to run the ball every time. It is difficult to be in a team who know the right time to change and execute it effectively together.
I wonder if this challenge is rooted in the way we practice. In many years in rugby I have observed, we’ll work on our defense in one session. We’ll do our attack in another session. Finally, we’ll practice our exits as another part of the session. This might mean that team never practice ‘changing gear’ together and never practice changing tactics in training without instruction from the coach.
There is a challenge for coaches to integrate sessions so that players have a chance to learn how to execute this kind of moment. How and when to kick the ball could be included in far more of our training!
As for England this is great challenge to overcome and work on in world cup year. With the likes of Farrell, Slade, Youngs and Daly we’re excited to see how they develop.