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The problem with the All Blacks' kicking game against France

By Ned Lester
Beauden Barrett kicks for the All Blacks. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

Frustrated fans were quick to criticise the All Blacks‘ kicking game against France, including former fullback and World Cup winner Israel Dagg, who labelled the kicking “aimless”.


A frequent and varied kick strategy has proved successful in the past, sucking in rush defensive lines and finding space behind the opposition’s backline. But, in the Rugby World Cup’s opening match, particularly in the second half, there was rarely any open space to be found.

Beauden Barrett has had a long and successful career as a playmaker, exercising his vision and skillset to break down defences and put the ball into space. The 2017 World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year was given the responsibility of handling the All Blacks’ kick strategy in Paris, but the French were up to the task and defused the 32-year-old’s kicks time after time.

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A critical error from Will Jordan on one chase resulted in a yellow card for the winger, contributing to an 18-point avalanche from the hosts to finish the game.

“I know everyone’s got obsessed with us that we kick too much,” Former All Black James Parsons said on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

“The short kicking game was the plan, it was in there but I don’t know that we manipulated the defence enough for it actually to be effective. We maybe pulled trigger on those kicks earlier than we should so France just had too many bodies in and around that area to cover it.”

The lack of reward from the kicking game had many impacts on the game, the territorial advantage that France enjoyed throughout the match was perhaps the most concerning.


Following the match, New Zealand halfback Aaron Smith said the biggest learning from the loss would be in how the All Blacks execute their exits from within their half.

While on the surface the territory stats were 60/40 in favour of France, diving deeper into those stats reveals the underlying problems the All Blacks face.

“To give the stats,” Parsons continued. “39 rucks in their own half, so 49 per cent of their rucks for the All Blacks were in their half whereas the French were 29%, they only had 18 and I’m including their own 22 in all of that.

“Their kicking game wasn’t a long kicking game, we actually kicked less than France but it was because we did a lot of contestables, we did a lot of short chip kicks.”



Parsons compared the Paris loss to the All Blacks’ huge win over the Springboks at Mt Smart during the recent Rugby Championship.

“As I said before, we hadn’t manipulated the defence enough with the carry, if you think about when Shannon Frizell shot out of the gates against the Springboks, got in behind and then you could go to an edge. We’d put so much impact into the collision area, that tightened South Africa, and they were like right we need to get shoulders on and actually belt the Kiwis backwards.

“And then obviously we went to finding space, if it was a cross-field kick or a contestable, but we’d done the manipulation around there. We just didn’t get to that point, I don’t think.

“We probably weren’t winning the collisions as effectively, maybe meeting gain line, or just behind. Whereas if you think about Mt Smart, the forwards were absolutely steamrolling through, there was no tips, there was no pass out the back. It was like right, I’m carrying and the two cleaners are really tight and that ball was fast and that’s how we got our momentum.”

As is often the case in the modern game, the forward pack hold the most influence in the match and so Parsons reiterated the All Blacks’ need to keep it simple in the first instance in order to set a foundation for the attack.

The pundit suggested there may have been some frustration from not winning the set piece that contributed to the decision-making but said the All Blacks couldn’t afford to “get too cute before we’d done the work.”


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