TOKYO, 5 Oct - When you see how hard defences fight to win the ball back you could be forgiven for asking why they then seem so keen to kick it away. Kicking is an often misunderstood element of the game. Here we attempt to demystify it.

Every kick should fall into one of two categories: kicks to regather or kicks for territory.

A kick to regather is simple: it is a kick you expect to win back. Typically, this will be a towering kick that gives your own attackers an opportunity to get underneath it and win it (an up-and-under). It can also be any chip over the defensive line or grubber (a bouncing or rolling ball) into the corner, which you expect either yourself or a team-mate to regather.

Kicks for territory are different. You sacrifice the opportunity to win the ball back in favour of length. You kick the ball 60m down the field, the opponent returns it 20m and you have made 40m.

In the following example, Herschel Jantjies, pictured above, kicks from the back of the breakdown. Because he kicks it from the tackle, the chasing players are onside when level with the breakdown. If the ball is passed to a player standing 10m behind, the chasers need to go much further to challenge for the ball. Makazole Mapimpi is very quick and his challenge in the air wins the ball back for South Africa.

Compare that kick with the one below by Hadleigh Parkes in Wales’s victory over Australia. Parkes sees space downfield and tries to kick into it. As you can tell by the length of kick, he has no intention of competing for it as it falls. Wales go from playing in their own 22m to playing farther up the field. It is a kick for territory.

When you receive a kick for territory, a good thing to do is to change the point of attack. In this clip Josh Adams is deep to collect a ball, which has been kicked down the left sideline. The kick has come from a lineout so the entire Australian pack will be coming up the left-hand side. The best thing to do is move the ball away from the Australian strength.

Adams does this by passing to the right-hand side. Liam Williams chips through but, when he fails to regather, Wales are in difficulty. As they have changed the point of attack, they have also gone away from their own strength. When Williams fails to regather the ball, Australia have a clear run back. They end up with a penalty just outside the Welsh 22. Look how the defensive lines we are used to seeing begin to break down after successive kicks.

During the next game you watch, keep an eye out for how teams kick. Do they kick for territory or to retain possession? How do they deal with the attacking opportunities that come from the kicks? Do teams kick more in certain conditions?

RNS sl/sdg/ar/ajr