In this final instalment of the series, I am going to run through an overview of England’s box kicking strategies.

If you haven’t been through the first four articles they can be found here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4).

Grubber, chip, spiral

Over the past two seasons Eddie Jones has focused on developing England’s kicking game. It is becoming more and more important in the modern game. Being able to play for territory, and put up contestable kicks is key. As such, Jones has developed a depth of kickers in his starting team with different qualities.

Ben Youngs has shown over a long period of time he can be trusted to put the ball in the right place.
Photo: Charlie, via Flickr

England have Ben Youngs and Danny Care, both of whom are proficient box kickers, though Youngs is better in this regard. Both also have the ability to grubber kick into space. The grubber kick is part of a rapidly expanding repertoire in England’s attacking strategy. Why? Because of the out and out pace of their chasers. They say there is no substitute for pace. Jonny May’s try against Australia in 2017 was a prime example of this tactic.

Danny Care kicking for Quins
Danny Care putting in a box kick for Quins.
Photo: Charlie, via Flickr

On top of this, England’s focus on speed in their backline means in wet conditions they are better placed to take advantage of grubber kicks. Not to mention chip kicks and traditional spirals into space, as was proved with three of England’s tries in the 2017 match against Australia. It was not a day for a ball in hand all attacking game. England have developed their Plan B and used it to great effect.

Territory

A traditional strength of England is their ability to kick for territory. This was often left to one, possibly two players. Eddie Jones has built on this. England have four legitimate territory kickers in Ford, Farrell, Daly and Brown. You could argue that Watson and Joseph are also viable options.

Getting the ball downfield with accuracy and distance complements the two prong attack, where the back 3 may have been brought up. The variation and number of kickers can be of huge assistance to the team in relieving pressure. This is especially true on turnover ball. Putting the ball into space at this point allows for territorial advantage to a retreating defence.

In addition, as has been shown against Argentina in particular, England can keep the ball in hand and counter-attack. But the kicking options allow for variation. Variation is so important in modern rugby given the scrutiny each team is put under by video analysts.

Contestable kicks

Lastly, are the contestable kicks. The trick with the box kicks of Ben Youngs is that they are closely modelled on the Saracens system.

Everyone will recall the accuracy of Conor Murray’s kicks week-in week-out; it is this accuracy England are aiming for. Not only does it give you a chance to contest for the ball it also provides a key part of the defensive strategy.

Conor Murray is peerless with his box kicks. England’s scrum halves will be aiming to get to his levels of consistency
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung

Eddie Jones, like Joe Schmidt, wants the kicks from his box kicker to be contestable. But the odd thing is where the ball is kicked from. Usually, the box kick goes up from anywhere within the 15-metre line. This not only takes great skill from the kicker to ensure that the ball does not go to touch, but it keeps the ball close to the touchline.

When the kick goes up, it is chased hard by a winger and a combination of two forwards or a forward and a centre. If the ball is not captured, the wing makes the tackle on the catcher whilst the forwards come in either to slow the ball or drive the catcher into touch if he’s close enough to the line.

This either results in a lineout to England and a massive gain in metres. Or England slows the ball down. On slowing the ball down they settle into their push defence and hope to force the opposition back for a couple of phases before the clearance kick. If they’ve done a great job it should result in a gain in metres for England.

Wrap up

That’s it for my overview of how England are looking to play and why they are looking to play like that. I hope you’ve enjoyed the series and taken something from it.

Author: Conor Wilson

Recently retired from the Military, Skydiving and rare Steak Enthusiast and Coach and Player of the beautiful game of Rugby.

Joe Schmidt, Will Greenwood and Rod MacQueen are my heroes, and my proudest moment was putting Jason Robinson in for a try at a promotional Rugby day. It was truly beautiful.

3 COMMENTS

  1. This series was such a nice trip.
    With today’s “everybody on feet” defenses, kicking became a crucial weapon to attack. Box kicks are not trying to relieve pressure, they are trying to gain 15-20 metres with a chase or at least gain a platform like a scrum from a handling error from the defenders. So, you were rushed by a really fast line speed, you look for a contest or a mistake, you win a scrum. From that platform you go forward, get the gainline and kill the line speed, then you are able to do your game. It’s a good resource to restart you attacking movement.

    PD: hope you have time to work on an all blacks attack series.

    Saludoa.

  2. Conor- I just want to congratulate you on this series. It was really enlightening to read and as an avid fan who wants to understand deeper tactics I learned so much!

    Have never commented online on anything on my life before but I had to say thank you and great work!

    Peter

    • Thanks very much Peter 🙂

      Really glad you liked them mate. Hope you took a lot from them and it makes the Six Nations a little more enjoyable!

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