Western Force half-bird Jake McIntyre tells us what to expect from recent rugby law change
“The kick should be 50:22 for the most attacking teams.”
The first person Jake McIntyre saw correctly utilizes the 50:22 kick stat Australia Linebacker was Rob Kearney. In the heavy league, says Western Force, there isn’t the same imperative to kick as often. But soon we will all have to understand how tactics can change the game.
The 50:22 rule was recently used in Super Rugby AU and will now spread throughout the global game. By law, if an attacking team kicks the ball from anywhere in its own half and it rebounds inside the opponent 22 before it has been touched, the kicking team gets a throw-in at the line.
“They brought it in the year before I arrived (again in Australia after playing with Claremont),” says McIntyre. “And just from watching it, there weren’t a lot of kicks in that first year. I don’t think there were a lot of kicks this year either.
“What we found this year is that because pretty much every team plays with two ‘backs’ in defence, it’s very difficult to kick them. Basically they were just covering the corners so the whole space was down the middle. We found we were kicking more from the middle than we were. at the edges, then you get a good chase line…
“Maybe the biggest time we focused on that was getting rid of the scratches. It seems like this is the time I opened the most because obviously the opponent can’t cover the entire field and the front line either. It was probably the hardest place to defend.”
For those who grew up on a Northern Hemisphere rugby diet, it might seem logical that a spin ball would be the most natural time to look for a 50:22 kick — and indeed, McIntyre remembers it was through a spin that Kearney made his impressive kick across.
The Australians are still getting used to this tactic and McIntyre admits the spin ball can prove the most likely time to finish. However, it also shows that the tactical dialing of highland kickers in Australia is likely to be very different from those in North or South Africa.
However, while some fear Northern Hemisphere leagues will soon see more aerial maneuvers, McIntyre – who has played in France with both Agen and Clermont – sees room for teams to innovate because of the kick.
Can teams that form to run from scratch but then have an advantage, or vice versa?
“This is where we found the greatest opportunity,” McIntyre replies. “Because if you start to manipulate them, you make them defend the front line and then it’s going to open up because you know the defenders won’t be able to cover the right corner. Then if they choose to close that, it’s ‘OK, we’ll turn it on.'”
“From a defensive point of view, that was really interesting because you normally think you have to defend from set-pieces. Then we had to start talking about how we’re going to cover the front and back lines. It’s hard to do and bloody.
“I think he should fit in with the more offensive teams, who are not afraid of his management.
“If you have teams that are more suitable for kicking, other teams will switch to them and you don’t have to worry about running. But teams that can hold the ball for long periods of time and want to play the ball, you have to defend it first and then that opens up opportunities to kick. Depending on whether they are kicking. They choose to use this tactic, it can actually help the more offensive teams, who can pick and choose when they want to use it.”
For McIntyre, the game in Australia has not been significantly affected by the introduction of the law and the global trend of having defensive players patrolling the back court for kicks means you need to be dexterous.
The big areas of exploitation he sees are from scrum and transformation. However, innovative coaches must already think about how to make the most of any uncertainty about when to defend on the front line or worry about kicks…
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