Unknown kickers set for WC spotlight
Goalkicking from some very unlikely players could determine which
teams advance in the knockout stages of the World Cup.
If all else fails, a kicking competition will determine the winners
of tied matches from this weekend's quarter-finals onwards.
And with teams required to field five different kickers in any
shoot-out, the likes of England's Jonny Wilkinson or South Africa's
Morne Steyn may not have the last word.
Teams that finish all square at the end of 80 minutes face an initial
period of 20 minutes' extra time, with 10 each way.
If that doesn't produce a winner, a maximum 10 minutes of "sudden
death" looms, with the first team to score during that period the
But if the sides are still level, then its down to kicks, with only
those players on the field at the completion of the "sudden death"
period allowed to take part.
Five men per side will have to take the kicks but the players
selected and the sequence in which they take part, in contrast to
football's penalty shoot-out, doesn't have to be unveiled before the
Another difference is that while a penalty shoot-out always takes
place from the same fixed distance, the rugby challenge becomes
progressively more difficult.
Those first up will be kicking from directly in front of the posts.
But the next men up must take their shots on the 15 metre line to the
left of the sticks before the next in line try from 15 metres out but
this time from the right before the sequence resumes again with kicks
from in front.
If, after five kicks each, the teams are still tied, the event will
continue with the same order of kickers until there is a decisive,
"sudden death" miss.
The order means that, for example, England manager Martin Johnson
could face a tricky call about which turn Wilkinson takes.
Does he let him go early to make sure of a successful kick, or leave
him to a longer range effort in the hope no-one misses an 'easier'
Welsh official Nigel Owens injected his own moment of drama into
England's 16-12 pool win over Scotland when he asked for replay
assistance to determine whether a long range penalty from the Scots' Dan
Parks had gone over the crossbar.
And the rules for the kicking competition state referees may, at
their "discretion" consult touch-judges and/or the television match
official, with the referee's decision final.
The 2009 European Cup semi-final that saw Leicester beat Cardiff at
the Millennium Stadium on kicks, after a 26-26 draw following the
completion of extra-time, is believed to be the only top-flight game of
rugby where this method of settling a match has been used.
That fixture ended with flanker Martyn Williams missing for Cardiff
before Leicester No 8 Jordan Crane was on target for the Tigers.
Some goalkickers have complained about the ball in use at the World
But that doesn't appear an option for Australia, whose kicking coach
Braam van Straaten helped develop the "Virtuo" match ball for English
"There's no problem with the ball, it's the best ball I've ever
kicked," said the former Springbok international."
Ireland face Wales and England play France in Saturday's
quarter-finals, with Australia up against South Africa and New Zealand
taking on Argentina on Sunday. AFP