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‘You’ve got to block out the noise’: Emma Sing reveals secrets of kicking success

By Martyn Thomas
EXETER, ENGLAND - JUNE 22: Emma Sing of Gloucester-Hartpury kicks a conversion during the Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby Final match between Bristol Bears and Gloucester-Hartpury at Sandy Park on June 22, 2024 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

As Bristol Bears head coach Dave Ward stood on the edge of the Sandy Park pitch last month and attempted to digest a heart-breaking Premiership Women’s Rugby (PWR) final defeat, he singled out one Gloucester-Hartpury player for particular praise.

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“I thought Emma Sing’s kicking from the tee was outstanding,” Ward told the pack of reporters huddled by the advertising hoardings. “When you go five and 10 [points down] it’s not so bad, but if you go 14 and 21 it becomes a different challenge.”

Ward and the Bears felt the full force of Sing’s right boot in Exeter, the England full-back converting four of Gloucester-Hartpury’s five tries – one of which she scored herself – and adding a late, long-range penalty to finish the match with 16 points.

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The accuracy of her kicking from the tee, as the losing coach noted, was one of the primary reasons why the back-to-back champions were able to turn a 17-7 half-time deficit into a commanding lead and ultimately a 36-24 victory.

Sing’s 16-point haul also capped a fine individual season on the domestic front during which she became the first PWR player to amass a century of points, finished as the league’s top scorer and was nominated for Player of the Season.

Not that she is one for personal accolades. “Everyone has their role, and I knew it was probably going to be a tight game,” Sing told RugbyPass as she celebrated with friends in the Sandy Park stands following the PWR final.

“After the second try we scored, Mo [Hunt] came up and was like, ‘Oh, Singers, make sure you take your time because it could be a close game and every kick’s important’.

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“So, that was on my mind and every time after I got one over, I would have goosebumps running back. I was just trying to stay in the right frame of mind, next job.

“They went really well and that’s my part for the team that I can contribute as well as running the ball and stuff.”

Kicking is an area of the women’s game that has been debated, and derided in some quarters, but it is one in which Sing is clearly excelling.

Emma Sing kicking

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No one who watched her stroke the ball over from all angles in Devon last month would suggest she needed the ball moved closer to the posts. So, what is the secret of her success from the tee?

“When I was little, I used to play football as well, so I think that’s massively helped,” Sing told RugbyPass ahead of the final.

“I can remember at under-18s, under-15s always kicking conversions. So, I think it’s something that I’ve developed, and I’ve sort of always had a similar style.

“But I think since coming to Hartpury College and then Hartpury Uni, having access to some kicking coaches has helped me to refine it a bit better. And now I’ve got quite a solid routine that I go through, so it’s quite comfortable for me.”

She added: “For the past 12 months, Andy Holloway has come in and worked with the Red Roses. I think that’s massive in helping me in that respect.”

What is your routine?

“Pretty much all of my kicks [have the same routine] unless it’s right in front of the posts and then I don’t bother.

“So, ball on the tee. Depending on wind or whatever, I normally put it just to the right-hand side of middle and then take four steps back, three to the side and then another one back and to the side.

“And then I go through some breathing and just try and push all the thoughts out, focus on myself and then do that for 15 seconds, maybe. And then I kick it.

“So, I think it’s just trying to take yourself away and like, you’ve got to block out all the noise and then it’s just you, your kicking tee, the ball and the posts.

“It’s just that, you’re in your own little bubble. I think that’s massive and that’s all I really focus on.”

How has your routine evolved?

“I think my routine’s mainly been the same. I know I did change it slightly two seasons ago, because I wanted more of a ‘J’ line into the ball rather than a ‘C’.

“So, I think that’s massive and then with ‘Hollers’, Andy Holloway, we’ve focused on the approach into the ball and then what you do post-ball and trying to keep it all slow.

“I think you do notice a big difference between [training] and then the in-game situation. In kicking sessions sometimes, I actually kick really badly, but when we talk about it, he’s like, ‘In a game situation, I’ve never seen you do that’.

“So, I think in this situation, it’s just a different environment. I do perform differently in training than in a game, but I don’t think that’s bad.”

Do you worry about the shot clock?

“My routine is probably about 45 seconds, maybe. But the ref will normally just tell you to get on with it if you’re running out of time and in that instance, I can speed up if I need to.

“I have to be quick on a penalty because I know I’ve only got 15 seconds spare and I don’t know when they start the timer. I think it’s when the person comes on the pitch, but that can obviously take them a little while to get over to you.

“So, that’s when I’ve got to speed it up but when I’ve got 90 seconds, as long as I get the ball quite quickly from the person [bringing on the tee] I’m okay.”

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Are there any kickers you look up to?

“I’ve looked at Jordie Barrett a lot because he can kick the ball a long, long way. So, I think watching him and how effortless he makes it look is quite a big one.

“But mainly I’ve just tried to focus on myself because it’s a lot different in the women’s game because some people can’t kick it as far as other people.

“It’s quite nice to be able to focus on my own achievements. I have kicked it from halfway in training and stuff, but I’ve never, ever had to be in that position in a game. So, it’s completely different circumstances.”

Does kicking practice get competitive?

“At Gloucester we don’t normally do it at the same time for [lots of] reasons, but with England, we did a lot where mid-training session, you would run on with a tee and a ball so a couple of you each side.

“And that was quite nice because you’re under fatigue to kick a conversion or whatever. And then it’s always quite nice when you get it over and the other person doesn’t… it’s like a little game.

“But, no, I think it’s quite nice being under the same pressure and to see how other people handle it because I know, compared to probably the rest of the kickers in our league, I take the whole 90 seconds or whatever. Whereas other people just run in there and kick it in like 10 seconds.

“So, it’s a lot of people have their different routines and stuff to get them focused, but I think it’s whatever works best for you.”

What kicking tee do you use?

“When I was little, I used to use one of those adjustable kicking tees. But I kick quite high off the tee, and I found that it wasn’t stable enough.

“So, I got the Rugby Bricks Vortex High Cut, which is quite a high tee. I did trial a couple others, but I think that’s the one that suited me best. So yeah, I’ve used it ever since.”

Following a season in which she scored 156 points in just 15 PWR appearances and kicked a frankly ridiculous 54 conversions, it’s fair to say Sing has found a process that suits her.

When she is on song, as Ward can attest, Gloucester-Hartpury are generally winning.

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finn 4 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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