A renewed focus on goalkicking will give the Wallabies an edge in the Rugby World Cup, according to recently-appointed kicking coach Chris Malone.
Kicking in general has been an achilles heel of Australian teams for too long, with Malone conceding it had been a perceived weakness in the past.
But no longer according to Malone, who has refined the techniques of Australia’s general play kickers and introduced `pressure kicking’ situations at the end of training sessions to simulate the all-important goal kicks at the end of games.
With no clearcut kicker established, and the likes of No.10s Bernard Foley and Quade Cooper duelling with centres Matt Giteau and Matt Toomua for the honour, Malone revealed players were encouraged to sledge, shout and put their teammates off during the pressure-cooker kicking scenarios.
“I like people to kick under fatigue so that they’re getting game practice as close as we can to the game,” said Malone, who took on the role two months ago.
“The reality is you want them to be able to go out there and not fear failing. You know you’ve done the work and back yourself.”
Malone argues Australia, as a nation who traditionally opt to play with ball in hand rather than be drawn into kicking duels, haven’t always taken that side of the game as seriously as their northern rivals.
But with the 2015 tournament being played in English conditions, Australian coach Michael Cheika knew the influence of Malone, a Sydney-born No.10 who plied his trade in England for a decade, would be invaluable.
“My history, particularly in Europe, is people spend hours and hours a week on (kicking),” he said.
“If we want to be the best in the world, then that part of our game has to be best practised as well.
“Cheik knew kicking would be important.
“Obviously we’ve got a very good attacking football side and good defensive football side.
“But having all bases covered particularly in this part of the world is crucial.
“In Australia (kicking practice) is something we’ve always just done, we’ve never had a real focus on it – most players have just picked it up along the way.”