8 steps to perfect goal kicking

You can’t expect to strike a ball like Jonny Wilkinson or Johnny Sexton – but that shouldn’t stop you trying. Use these great tips from world-class kicking guru Dave Alred to raise your team’s percentages off the tee…

Johnny Sexton, who’s coached by Dave Alred, sets up for a goal kick

1 Placing the ball

When setting up the ball, point the seam at the target (posts). That’s because when you kick it’s the ball you look at and the seam tells you where the target is.

2 Visualisation

Mental rehearsal is a key part of place-kicking. Jonny Wilkinson visualizes a woman sitting between the posts

holding a Coke can. He imagines a blue line attaching the ball to the can and then pictures knocking the can out of her hand.

3 The run-up

Approach the ball at a 45-degree angle. Some kickers get front-on early on impact, which can help with accuracy but limits power.

It’s about managing two actions – rotation of the body into impact, and leg flexion into the ball. Leigh Halfpenny has excellent flexion but little rotation, which is why he can struggle with longer kicks.

4 Foot placement

When you plant your non-kicking foot, the ankle should be next to the ball.

If you put it behind the ball  it causes a right-to-left draw that makes kicking from the right of the posts more difficult.

5 The strike

Strike the inside back panel and drive through the ball. The “sweet spot” is three or four inches from the tip of the ball, so aim to hit that with the hardened ball of your big toe.

The body should point towards the posts on and straight after impact.

Keep your head down – a common mistake is for players to lift it too early. To rectify that, make the ball – not the posts – the target.

6 Whole-body power

Many kickers rely solely on leg power. Instead, the body should go through the ball. It’s like golf: there, the power comes from rotation of the waist. In rugby, the power comes from rotation of the hips.

If your pillar (shoulder to hip) goes towards the target, the chances are that the ball will too.

7 Follow-through

Some kickers follow through round the corner and across the body, causing them to hook the ball. Once you’ve connected, stay straight – just as you would with a golf swing. Aim to follow along rather than through.

8 Landing

The kicking foot should land on the ground straight after hitting the ball.

This helps get your body through the ball and prevents hyperextension of the knee – which can lead to injury.

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