Where is the sweet spot for the box kick? Posted almost 3 years ago

Photo: The Rugby Site

Where is the sweet spot for the box kick?

One of the sage pieces of advice for a defending side remains, to this day: “Use the touch-line as your friend”. In other words, drive the attacking players towards the side-line, and the threat of stepping over it and turning over possession is the equivalent of having an extra, invisible defender.

There are specific situations where the touch-line is most definitely not the defence’s friend, however, and most of these are connected with the kicking game. The nearer to touch the attack can pin down a defender with the kick, the narrower their options in reply will be.

This is particularly true of the box kicking game off number 9, which is such a common feature of exit strategy in the modern game.

The answer to the question, “What is the most awkward spot for the receiver to defend a box-kick?” is unquestionably “In the near-side 5 metre corridor”. This is the scenario in which the side-line is at its most inhospitable to the receiving team.

In addition to his focus on catching the ball under challenge, the receiver has to consider where he can position him/herself to without being pushed out over the side-line, and whether the flight of the ball will take it out on the full and therefore it is a safe ‘leave’. Questions, questions – which all have to be resolved in the space of five seconds or less!

Let’s take a look at some recent examples from the start of the Super Rugby AU competition in Australia. The 5-metre box kick demands great accuracy from the kicker, and there are few better than the Brumbies scrum-half Nic White:

View the clip

The number 9 is typically standing on the 15-metre line when he delivers the kick, so the technique involves moving the ball in the air rather like a golfer with his/her drive off the tee: ‘drawing’ or hooking the ball back over his own shoulder (on the left side of the field for a right-footed kicker), or ‘fading’ it in the opposite direction on the other side of the pitch. In this instance, White finds a landing zone no more than one metre in from touch.

Where should the defensive backfield position themselves in order to receive the kick? In this case, the Force full-back (Rob Kearney) is standing deep, and starts his run towards the ball from the halfway line:

When the full-back stays deep, he is unable to contest a shorter kick at its point of descent (inside the 40m line). Kearney is still five metres adrift when the ball is successfully regathered by the Brumbies’ chaser.

The second example shows the box-kick (by the Force’s Tomas Cubelli) drifting the ball from left to right on the opposite side of the field:

View the clip

In this instance the kick passes the 40m line, but the problem of positioning for the full-back remains. With the landing zone again within the 5m corridor, the receiver (the Waratahs’ Mark Nawaqanitase) is trying to move from outside-to-in, in order to achieve the twin of aims of catching the ball while staying infield.

In the event his running line is shut down, and he is crowded out by the sheer volume of bodies in such a narrow ‘receiving box’:

The final example comes from the game between the Brumbies and the Waratahs, with Nic White again providing the template:

View the clip

Here the kick is much longer, travelling all the way to the halfway line in the air. But any idea that this might make the full-back’s job easier is quickly dispelled. The Waratahs number 15 (Jack Maddocks) is still in two minds: catch the ball, and risk being shoved into touch by a flying Brumbies’ chaser? Or, let the ball bounce and risk the ball kicking infield instead of going out? Questions, questions.

In the event, Maddocks chooses the second option, and a wicked bounce sends the Waratahs tumbling all the way back down the field. At the critical moment, Maddocks has one foot in the field of play, and the other outside it:

While it is quite possible to pose problems for the defensive team by varying the length and hang-time of a box-kick, even more problems can be created by hitting the landing zone in the 5-metre corridor consistently. The ball descending close to touch gives the full-back a lot of questions to answer in a short time-frame. The questions of depth of positioning, of fielding or leaving, of finding a running line on to the ball without being jammed into touch, are all very much ‘alive and kicking’.

The Rugby site is the only online coaching resource to offer a truly global perspective. Subscribe today and get inside the game.

Enter your email address to continue reading

We frequently post interesting articles and comment from our world class content providers so please provide us with your email address and we will notify you when new articles are available.

We'll also get in touch with various news and updates that we think will interest you. We promise to not spam, sell, or otherwise abuse your address (you can unsubscribe at any time).

See all Kicking videos


comments powered by Disqus

Nick has worked as a rugby analyst and advisor to Graham Henry (1999-2002), Mike Ruddock (2004-2006) and latterly Stuart Lancaster (2011-2015). He also worked on the 2001 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and produced his first rugby book with Graham Henry at the end of the tour. Since then, three more rugby books have followed, all of which of have either been nominated for, or won national sports book awards. The latest is a biography of Phil Larder, the first top Rugby League coach to successfully transfer over to Union. It is entitled “The Iron Curtain”. Nick has also written or contributed to four other books on literature and psychology. "He is currently writing articles for The Roar and The Rugby Site, and working as a strategy consultant to Stuart Lancaster and the Leinster coaching staff for their European matches."

Topic Kicking
Applicable to Coaches   Players   Others   Supporters and fans   Managers   Referees  

Related articles

Why the driving lineout is here to stay as a prime attacking platform

The driving lineout is fast becoming the most creative source of offensive thinking in the professional game. Using the recent Ireland vs France 6N game for some seminal illustrations, Nick Bishop explains how the attacking potential has come about.

How to attack wide – the Toulouse way!

The best attacking teams in the current era never take the apparent space they are offered on the edge without checking, or switching inside first.

Why defences need to adjust quickly to early-phase strikes

Whatever the pattern of defence, every player needs to be on the same page in terms of their attitudes and adjustments. Or as Nick Bishop, using the recent Leicester vs Saracens Premiership, highlights teams can get repeatedly ‘stung’ from the same play.

How to create early attacking options from the “21”

If your charges can learn to run one play exceptionally well, you will force opponents to adjust to it – and that will create opportunities elsewhere.
As Nick Bishop evidences in Racing 92’s match against fellow Top 14 side Toulon.

How to run a two-phase switchback attack with options

Nick Bishop looks at how leading teams are creating multiple threats early in the phase-count, and sustaining those threats for longer on attack than the defence can successfully manage them.