'Yeah, you made two kicks mate. That one and your ****ing last one'
When secondrows dare kick, it’s typically met with ironic cheers from the crowd. It’s implicitly understood that it’s an area of the game that’s generally off-limits to the ‘piano shifters’.
Of course there have been notable exceptions, key among them Wallabies’ great John Eales, who kicked 34 penalties and 31 conversions over 86 caps for Australia in the 1990s and the early noughties. The 6’7, 120kg Aussie famously came to be known as ‘Mr Nobody’, as nobody’s perfect; due to his all-court game – kicking included – and this all years before skillful tight five players became a thing.
Exeter Chiefs, England and now British & Irish Lions lock Jonny Hill is among the latest generation of forwards to dabble in the art. He memorably booted the ball 50 metres down the pitch with a very respectable touch finder against Bristol back in April.
"He's whacked that like he's Lionel Messi!" ?
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 23, 2021
But England boss Eddie Jones is not a fan of the 27-year-old putting boot to ball and made it pretty clear in a typically abrupt phone call with the rising star.
“Nothing too weird to be honest,” said Hill, when asked had he had any awkward exchanges with the notoriously irascible Australian. “He’s always been very straightforward with me. I’m quite a simple bloke to be honest.”
One conversation did stick out though.
“I kicked the ball against Bristol last year [Prior to above miracle in April]. It was like a grubber down the wing and I was like, yeah, that was a bad decision.
“He called me up and said ‘How do you think you’re going?’ and I was like ‘yeah, I made a kick at the weekend.’
“And he was like ‘Yeah, you made two kicks mate. That one and your ****ing last one.
“I was like right. Roger that.
“And then I like kicked one three months after against Bristol [see video above],” said Hill. “These 50:22s, I’m loving it.”
In fact it was Hill’s fellow second row at Chiefs, teammate Will Witty, that won plaudits over the weekend after his dribbling of the ball led to a try.
‘He [Will Witty] is so silky as well,” joked Hill. “It’s brilliant. He doesn’t know what to do. He gets all embarrassed when they bring it up.”
Jones may not enjoy them, but dare we say it little on a rugby pitch is more enjoyable than one of the ‘grunts up fronts’ executing the off-limits skill.
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