Dave Alred, the kicking specialist who helped Jonny Wilkinson fire England to 2003 World Cup glory, has revealed what he got up to at the start of 2020 when he began working with Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks.

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Alred’s current list of clients includes England’s George Ford and Ireland’s Johnny Sexton, the Queensland Reds, his newly formed School of Kicking, and star golfer Francesco Molinari. But he also took All Blacks World Cup winner Barrett on in January and he continues to advise over Zoom after the pandemic put a stop to his usual in-person service.  

Speaking to The XV, a new home for premium online rugby content, Alred explained: “I have created a model which we use in the School of Kicking, grouping the kicks in reverse order of how much effort it puts on your body.

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Beauden Barrett on how the All Blacks will attack Argentina this weekend

“Believe it or not, the most comfortable kick in terms of your body is the jogging spiral. People would often be horrified to realise this but it is the easiest kick atomically to do and we use that because it is very, very sensitive in terms of balance.

“If you don’t quite get it right it is difficult so that’s a really good barometer. The other thing I do for a lot of a session is I don’t let players put more than 40 per cent effort into the kicks. It is harder to kick softly or softer and controlled than it is to hit it really hard. When you hit it hard it often disguises technical flaws.”

Softly was precisely what Alred had All Black Barrett doing at top of the year, breaking down the mechanics in order for him to become better, and he would love children to follow that example as they start off. “If kids could learn basic fundamentals at an early age they would reduce the amount of injury, they would hopefully have a rudimentary idea of the basic principles and they would be able to work on their own both safely and effectively.

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“That is the idea but often in my experience, particularly when I started off with England way back in 1997, a lot of guys were incredible players but they couldn’t kick and you’re trying to teach people who are mindful of the amount of physical work, the running, the weights, the conditioning and all the rest of what goes on, it actually was very challenging indeed.

“I was tested a lot to find a way to get players to learn to kick in a way that uses their body shift, which is what I do with Sexton, rather than their leg. I’m trying to look at a kinetic chain that has the least amount of physical tax on the person’s body and it’s the easiest way to learn to kick.

“I remember Brian O’Driscoll when he came on the Lions in 2001 we wanted backs that could kick so we learned straightaway that the best way is to teach people to kick in the run. I still see people standing still kicking and then reckon that they learn better by running after it and I completely disagree – kick on the run!”

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