The World Cup does funny things to players, it makes them abandon their training and do ‘strange things’. Noticing this increase in Rugby World Cup drop-goals appears to be a symptom of this pressure.
Five-fold increase in Rugby World Cup Drop-Goals
During the 2019 Six Nations, there was only one successful drop-goal attempt across 15 games. Whilst across the first 16 at the Rugby World Cup, there have been five drop-goals. The most notable was by Camille Lopez to defeat Argentina. So what is causing this increase?
It is easy to suggest that a drop-goal is a fairly low-risk way to gain three points, in an attacking position. It is quite a conservative play and lends itself to close, high-pressure matches. So to an extent, seeing so many Rugby World Cup drop goals (at this point) is not a shock.
However, if teams have decided that the drop-goal is part of their strategy to win games then why do they just happen at the Rugby World Cup?
Surely we would expect to see them more in club games and other international competitions rather than just every four years? In reality, the increase in drop-goals during the Rugby World Cup pool stages is, in fact, more surprising. Given a number of pool matches are one-sided one would actually expect fewer drop-goals, not more.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 1, 2019
Symptoms of Rugby World Cup pressure
Seeing drop-goals at a Rugby World Cup as a departure from normal tactics, we now need to ask why. The obvious answer appears to be the pressure that World Cups apply.
For many players, it is their first experience of the tournament and as a result, they end up doing things they are not used to.
The most interesting thing is the number of drop-goals happening at the beginning and during the middle of games. There were two taken in the Wales vs Australia game [one by Dan Bigger, and one for Rhys Patchell], and Handre Pollard landed one against New Zealand [in the 59th minute].
This shows that players are under the pressure from the very first minute of games. Drop-goals at the end of tight games are much more normal but during the middle, is a lot rarer.
So, even if they are successful does a team taking these drop-goals to show weakness rather than a strength?
le Drop – a Paradox of Logic?
It often perplexes fans why teams do not take as many drop-goals. Hence this is not an article suggesting that teams should not be taking them on. However, it does suggest a paradox of logic or, it could be a lack of clarity of thought from teams.
It is difficult to think that drop-goals were always part of the plan for sides – given how rarely we see them in the years prior to a World Cup. Although, as the pressure rises we are likely to see the Rugby World Cup drop-goals keep coming at this tournament. However, will it be the teams taking them that are successful?
France just land the drop goal for this final 10 minutes vs Argentina and take the lead back by 2 points. I think the All Blacks have only ever landed 4 drop goals across all RWC games ever? #FRAvARG
— Byron McLean (@simcore) September 21, 2019
Drop-goals are an effective way to build a score but if it deviates from a team’s game plan it can be dangerous. Rugby World Cup pressure does funny things to sides and any increase in drop-goal attempts appears to be a symptom of this.
The change in tactic may turn out to be inspired (even if it is not necessarily a planned one). Successful attempts can generate positive team energy, as well as using a penalty advantage within your opposition tryline. Options are available for a Rugby World Cup drop goal, even if the stage is a white-hot atmosphere.
What we do know is they are hugely dramatic and entertaining yet the question remains about their efficacy.
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