Wallabies side with kicking in RWC quest

Bernard Foley is prepared for the likelihood it will all come down to him in the Wallabies’ vital Rugby World Cup pool game against England.

In selecting Foley ahead of Quade Cooper, coach Michael Cheika has sided with goal-kicking over all-out attack.

And for good reason because, when it comes to the crunch, the difference-maker in big games is so often penalty goals and conversions – with the odd drop goal thrown in for good measure.

Put simply, the tries tend to dry up when the big guns face off.

Think of Jonny Wilkinson and his laser-accurate left boot, which helped carry England to their maiden World Cup trophy in 2003, Matt Burke’s eight goals in the 1999 semi-final win over South Africa or All Black Stephen Donald’s critical penalty which delivered an 8-7 win over France in the 2011 decider.

That’s one of the major reasons why the Wallabies opted for Foley to lead their attack in Saturday’s important showdown with England over the brilliant, but sometimes erratic, Cooper.

Foley admits he felt under pressure to retain his starting five-eighth spot following Cooper’s efforts against Uruguay where he sparked Australia’s backline in the 65-3 rout.

But it was the Reds playmaker’s return of five from 11 with the boot which surely ended any chance he had of getting his name off the teamsheet for this weekend.

Cutting Uruguay’s defence to ribbons will look good on highlight reels, but winning World Cup crunch games tends to come down to who is better at putting the ball between the sticks.

England are masters at that, as illustrated in their 100 per cent kicking in the loss to Wales last week.

“As our kicking coach (Chris Malone) has drummed into us, kicking is the most important aspect of the World Cup,” Foley said.

“All World Cups have been won with a kick or there’s been a kick that’s been a massive factor.”

While Foley has had moments of weakness – notably in Mendoza, Argentina when he missed three of four conversions and a penalty goal on an ugly night – he also showed the cool head in tense situations to kick the Waratahs to their maiden Super Rugby title in 2014.

He also knows the unique pressures of kicking for goal in the northern hemisphere, where fans go silent as a mark of respect for the goalkicker – as opposed to the cacophony of noise he might expect at Ellis Park, the Cake Tin or even Suncorp Stadium.

But the silence brings it’s own problems, as Foley found out on last year’s spring tour when kicking for goal at the normally deafening Aviva Stadium in Ireland – and all he could hear was a baby crying.

“They were literally dead quiet,” he said.

“The first couple of kicks were a bit eerie there … but being able to kick at Twickenham last year and at Aviva against the Irish was fine.

“That’s when you tap into that knowledge and experience of having done it before.

“… For me it’s just going back to that repetition and consistency that we’ve done on the training pitch and back to the processes.

“If I’m feeling comfortable in my run-up then I’m in the zone and able to factor everything else out and just worry about the kick.”

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