Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has conceded Australia’s goal-kicking options need urgent reinforcement leading into next year’s World Cup.
As last year’s heir apparent Christian Lealiifano performs some way off his cool-headed best this season and newly anointed Test five-eighth options Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale stumbled badly against the Rebels on Friday, McKenzie signalled greater support for and scrutiny of Australian rugby’s best kickers.
“There’s a bunch of kicking options, Christian’s historically had really good numbers but that’s not there at the moment and the other guys are all kicking at around 75 per cent,” McKenzie said after naming his Wallabies squad last week. “We’d like that to be a little bit more, because your [Leigh] Halfpennys are into the 80s.”
The Australian Rugby Union appointed kicking consultant Damien Hill earlier this year to put greater emphasis on kicking across its whole program, from club and under-20s competitions right up to the Wallabies. Hill, who is not to be confused with the former Rebels coach of the same name, worked as a consultant to Australian former NFL kicker Darren Bennett, as well as with the Newcastle Knights and Brumbies, working closely with Lealiifano, before taking on the national role.
He has worked with some of the Super Rugby franchises this season and will join the Wallabies for a few days ahead of the Test series against France when they head into camp on Sunday. “When you go into World Cups there are fine margins and things like drop goals suddenly become important,” McKenzie said. “You can’t just invent them for the World Cup, they’ve got to be part of your thinking and practice when it’s appropriate. Every World Cup I can think of has had games in it that are decided by drop goals and that’s part of the culture of that sort of competition.”