Watching England’s defeat to Wales was painful. If it wasn’t already obvious I’m an Englishman, and by default an England fan. So waking up this morning it's interesting to see how a lot of the discussion has revolved around Chris Robshaw's decision to kick for the corner and go for the win.
So I want to try and look at this objectively, remove the emotional element and hopefully look at that decision from a Coach & Captains point of view.
I watched the game with my Rugby team, and at the time everyone was screaming for England to kick for goal (except the solitary Welshman in the team), It’s understandable, if Owen Farrell or George Ford gets the kick England are level and then get the ball back, and a draw is better than a loss, plus there is time left to play post kick. But at the time, in the real time flow of the game, I thought the call to go for the corner was the right one, and here is my reasoning why.
I felt England had been under massive pressure for the last 10 minutes or so. They’d conceded a brilliant long range try and then the magnificent Dan Biggar kicked a long range penalty goal. England were clearly struggling to get on the front foot against a Welsh side that it has to be said was showing superior fitness and power.
So, imagining ourselves in Robshaws position for a moment with 4 minutes to go and a penalty about 45-50 metres (with the angle) what do you do?
- If you kick for goal and fall short, you surrender possession, Wales inevitably kick long chase and England are back in their defensive zone with a minute less on the clock trying to build momentum that has clearly left them against a fevered and dominant Welsh team.
- If the ball goes dead, or the in goal area it’s a 22 drop out, Wales kick long and England are back in their defensive zone trying to do all of the above with a minute less on the clock.
Ok, that deals with the potential negatives behind a missed kick. What if you make the kick? Well, granted you’re level on 28 all, but again Wales will be kicking into your defensive zone and you’re back under intense pressure from a dominant Welsh team coming forward.
With 1 point already in the bag why not kick for the corner and go for 5 game points instead of 2 (i.e. the win). 7 points instead of 3 at that moment leaves Wales needing to score a try after surrendering possession back to you with no time on the clock, remember, kicking for goal will take the best part of another minute off the clock.
If the try doesn’t come off you’re still in Wales defensive zone with them having to play out as seen by England winning a scrum immediately after the second lineout. The pressure is then on them and there is likely the chance to force another possibly more kickable penalty.
So for me personally I had no problems with the kick to the corner.
What I did have a problem with was the poor call and execution at the following line out and England's inability to read and react to the Welsh defensive set up. Going to the front is a solid option, it’s the easiest to win but also the easiest to defend.
If we look at the picture below we can see Wales marking the 1st and 2nd jumping pods. leaving Haskell and Launchbury against Tipuric and Gethin Jenkins (highlighted).
Even though it’s a harder throw I personally would have thrown to the tail with Wood bringing some movement into the line out by turning and coming to create the full tail of the line pod.
Think about it, you suddenly have Launchbury jumping against Justin Tipuric and one of Wales best line out jumpers, and importantly also best maul defenders, in Alun Wyn-Jones has to switch from defending the maul to lifting.
Even if you still go to the 2nd jumper Wynn-Jones has to at least follow Woods movement weakening the second drive or gamble England don't throw long.
If you do throw to the tail and Wales don't go up and go for the drive defence you’ve still got 15 metres to work in and bring the entire Welsh pack in off that touchline, give yourself 15 metres to work in, give your pack the inwards momentum allowing them to roll in field or peel.
In hindsight the three points would have brought a draw and by virtue a better result, I don't think the kick for the corner was a poor decision. Yeah it was a risk, but i felt the potential result was worth it.
Author: The Dead Ball Area
Graeme Forbes has run The Dead Ball Area since 2014.
You can find his material on Green and Gold Rugby, Rugbydump Coaching and Youtube. You can also find him randomly arguing with people on Twitter.