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Neil Jenkins: How to manage different kickers

Kicking on: Neil Jenkins works with Owen Farrell in New Zealand. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

Lions assistant coach Neil Jenkins explains how he works with the contrasting kickers on tour


As the kicking coach on the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, Neil Jenkins had balance the needs of the different kickers in the squad. Here he gives his top tips on how to deal with that situation…

1. Video homework

“I had to try to get a feel for all the players. From my perspective, I had to watch a lot of footage of our kickers. Then I had to look at adapting my own approach, because in four or five weeks together you cannot change these kickers too much.”

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2. Awareness of triggers

“Each player has different triggers. We have different types of kickers, so I will watch them in training to see how they set their mark from the ball, where they are coming from, their tempo, trajectory of ball, height or impact of their punt.”

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3. Conscious of timing

“All kickers need to have the right rhythm – not too fast, not too slow. If you have ever tried to smash a golf ball, it won’t go too far. Everyone is different, and the Lions kickers are the best of the best, so we work on simple things to find that rhythm.”

On target: Leigh Halfpenny lines up a penalty for the Lions. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

4. Talking on the pitch

“In training what we talk about depends on who we’re playing. If the opposition close down space quickly, we’ll work on sharp speed to get back and kick. We talk a fair bit on the pitch during games too (about how to react to what is happening).”

5. Adding pressure

“We use a lot of cones in training. We work on kicking one step from a cone, then two. Also, quickly getting the ball in front of the body and having a controlled drop to the foot. Defenders will charge down and we’ll work on exits, bringing in our left-footers.”

6. A little variety

“Keeping it fresh on tour is difficult – you have different kickers game to game. We have good competition and one thing we do use is adding in a tight angle, trying to hit a post from the 5m line. It’s a challenge but we still try to get through the ball.”

Training day: Johnny Sexton practises his kicking in Rotorua. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

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This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Rugby World.

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