How to second-guess and nullify their kicking game

How often do we see the best full backs in the world seem to be in the right place at the right time to receive kicks? In this series on reading the opposition kicking game, I start with good set-ups.


Help your back three players make on-the-field decisions about where the opposition are likely to kick the ball. They can then choose whether to cover the space straight away, or move there late, inviting the opposition to kick.

From each set-piece and in open play, there are some key set-ups that assist the wingers and full back to be in the best places to move into position to catch the ball. The players can then adjust their positions as the opposition attack unfolds to be able to take the ball on the full.

  1. As the ball is passed back to their 10, our 11 moves back to cover.
  2. Our 15 and 14 cover the other backfield positions to encourage the clearing kick.


First, the back three should look for cues when the opposition want to kick and where the attack want to kick. For instance, most kicks happen in the opposition half of the field.

Then they should think about the potential kickers. You can quickly work out which foot each opposition player likes to kick with by watching them in the warm-up. If you have a chance to analyse them beforehand, you might understand their preferred area to kick from and to. From this knowledge, position yourself to take away the most dangerous kicker’s favourite kicks.

Also consider whether they have kicking options outside 10? For example, they may like to shift one pass to bring the openside wing up, then kick. In this case your 15 moves across behind your openside winger, with the blindside winger moving into the middle of the pitch as the attack makes the pass.


  1. If the opposition decide to move the ball with an option to kick, the 11 moves infield.
  2. 14 moves into the line to cover the passing play.
  3. 15 moves in behind 14 to cover the cross field kick.


The back three’s position should be dynamic – it evolves as the play is in progress. The idea is to give their kickers a different look when the play is set up. That means, when their kicker is in his kicking motion, he will have a quick look and see that the space might now be covered. It forces a more precise kick, which may force an error.

For example, in the opposition territory, the blindside winger can start up but then drop back on the 9-10 pass. Their 10 might now go for straight for touch. If he doesn’t or kicks inaccurately, your winger might well be able to take the kick on the full and uncontested.


  1. Choose whether to cover the most likely kick OR to invite the opposition to kick for a space.
  2. Move in-play as their kicker receives the ball to put pressure on the final kick.
  3. Watch the opposition in the warm up to see which foot they prefer to kick with.

For games to work on your defence and kicking, try

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