There are three issues I want to look at: the first is the level of kicking by the Wallabies in matches; the second is the decision making when kicking; and the third is the execution of the kicks.
Level of Kicking
Kicking in general play has always been a big part of Robbie Deans’s game plan for the Wallabies.
On the 2009 end-of-year tour the Wallabies kicked the ball far too much, averaging 36 kicks per match whilst their opposition averaged 32.
In all matches in 2010 the Wallabies averaged 16 kicks per match, the same number as the opposition.
In 2011 across all matches the Wallabies averaged 20 kicks per match – again, the same as their opposition.
The number of kicks per match is one measure of the level of kicking, and there were variations when looking at that level against all teams in 2011:
The other measure of the level of kicking is the percentage of kicks from the number of times a team has possession. In 2011 that measure also varied from match to match:
As you can see the trend for the percentage of kicking by teams the Wallabies played in 2011 was fairly constant. In contrast, the Wallabies started the season kicking less than their opposition and the level of their kicking increased over the course of the season.
In 2010 the Wallabies kicked 38 per cent of the time they had the ball compared to 41 per cent by their opposition. In 2011 that measure was 38 per cent compared to 44 per cent for the opposition, so the Wallabies’ level of kicking in 2010 and 2011 was actually less than their opposition.
That level of kicking is simply a reflection of the tactics in the game today. Kicking is an important part of the game and whilst there are improvements that can be made in decision making and execution with the Wallabies kicking, the level of kicking in 2010 and 2011 was not a significant issue in my opinion.
In the first two TRC matches this season against the All Blacks the Wallabies kicked an average of 21 times (or 46 per cent of the time they had possession). The All Blacks kicked an average of 18 times (39 per cent of possessions).
In TRC 1 the Wallabies kicked only 15 times (34 per cent) but in TRC 3 that level increased to 27 kicks (56 per cent). The All Blacks also increased their level of kicking across the two matches, but only up from 30 per cent of possession in TRC 1 to 45 per cent in TRC 3.
These numbers indicate that kicking is becoming a more important part of the Wallabies’ game plan in 2012.
The higher level of kicking by the Wallabies must have been part of the game plan to tackle the All Blacks at Eden Park but I think this increased level of kicking is too much. If I had to put a number on the optimum level of kicking in a game I would say an average of no more than 40 per cent of possessions would end with a kick.