Neil Jenkins believes the British and Irish Lions boast a quartet of world class kickers who can deliver a test series winning edge against the All Blacks in New Zealand.
Jenkins, the Lions kicking coach, stands third in the all-time points scoring list on 1090 in tests behind Dan Carter and Jonny Wilkinson and the former Wales outside half cannot hide his excitement about working with Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny Sexton, Owen Farrell and Dan Biggar on this summer’s ten match tour.
The Lions will not have a clear advantage in many areas over the reigning world cup winners and that is why they have to make their proven kickers count in all ten matches on tour
Jenkins is adamant the Lions will boast four of the top five kickers in world rugby with the final place not going to New Zealand’s Beauden Barrett, but is reserved for Argentina’s Nicolas Sanchez, who has amassed 494 test points.
Jenkins, the quietly spoken former Lions No10 who helped win the test series against South Africa in 1997, isn’t tub thumping and his verdict is based on cold hard facts. As a student of the kicking game, Jenkins knows that the Lions are travelling with the most potent points accumulating force every assembled by the most famous touring team in the world and it is supplemented by the long range kicking skills of Stuart Hogg, Elliot Daly and Conor Murray.
The message from the Lions to the All Blacks is loud and clear, concede penalties anywhere in your own half and expect to be punished and that could be extended to around 55m from their posts if Daly, Hogg or Murray are handed the ball.
Jenkins explained: “This is the best group of kickers I have ever taken on a Lions tour. Johnny, Leigh and Owen were with me in Australia in 2013 along with Conor and Stuart who were doing a bit of kicking. With Dan and Eliot coming into the squad we now have a range of outstanding kickers. I believe that Owen, Leigh, Johnny and Dan are four or the best five kickers in the world with Sanchez there or there about.
“It is an area where we have an edge over the All Blacks and those kickers are world class with their statistics speaking for themselves. We don’t have a pecking order and it could be that two those four will be in the same team and we will try and give them all a chance early on. There were some tough conversation in Australia which is probably going to happen this time as well as they try to stake a claim to be the kicker at test match time.
“In Australia, it was Leigh who started really well in Perth. I am sure Johnny was thinking “ this boy is good” and Leigh was outstanding and a big part of winning the series. Kicking will also be a big part of this series in New Zealand and while Beauden is a ridiculously good player for the All Blacks, maybe we can exert some pressure on him as a kicker.”
Jenkins has been impressed with the kicking form produced by Owen Farrell, who was part of the series triumph in Australia and has been central to England’s recent success and Saracens domination of European rugby. He added: “Owen is an incredibly dedicated player and wants to get better. He has a desire to be the best in the world and has been working with Jonny Wilkinson who wasn’t a bad kicker was he!
“I haven’t got an ego and if I have to just kick balls back to them then I will do that, but I will also help in any way I can. They are all exceptionally good and there will be a lot of kicking on this tour just as there was in Australia to get themselves ready.”
as seen in the Evening Standard