Lions turn up heat on kickers
June 26, 2013
Kurtley Beale's slip while attempting a penalty cost the Wallabies dearly in the first Test © Getty Images
The British & Irish Lions have stepped up their psychological warfare on the Australia's goalkickers, with kicking coach Neil Jenkins questioning why the Wallabies don't have a full-time kicking mentor of their own.
Bram van Straaten is employed as a consultant by the Wallabies but the South African-based goalkicking guru conducts his sessions via Skype and is not in camp for the three-Test Lions series.
Head coach Robbie Deans was a renowned goalkicker in his playing days but does not work with the kickers on a regular basis.
Goalkicking proved the difference between the two sides in Saturday's series opener in Brisbane, with the visitors sneaking home 23-21 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Lions sharp-shooter Leigh Halfpenny slotted five-of-six shots on goal while James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale kicked a combined four-of-nine, missing four penalties and a conversion between them.
Asked by a British journalist on Wednesday if he is surprised the Wallabies don't have a full-time kicking coach in camp, Jenkins, a veteran of two Lions tours as a player, replied: "Yeah pretty much, I know Bram does it and Bram's an outstanding kicker himself and a good man but I'm not too sure how much he's involved. I know he's worked with the Australian kickers but again, the importance of kicking as we've seen last Saturday, it does come down to generally goalkicking that wins and loses matches
The Wallabies' cause wasn't helped by the fact first-choice kicker Christian Lealiifano was knocked out in the opening minute of the opening Test attempting to tackle Jonathan Davies.
That meant O'Connor, who had practiced sparingly in the lead up due to a hamstring twinge, and Beale, who had played one Super Rugby and one club game since the start of March, had to share the kicking duties.
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Berrick Barnes, who kicked at an 80 percent success rate in Tests last year, also left the field at half-time with concussion.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland went on the attack on Sunday when he questioned why Beale, who slipped as he attempted what would have been the match-winning kick in the final minute, was wearing moulded studs on the slippery Suncorp Stadium surface.
Jenkins added on Wednesday: "The reality is we know the (Suncorp Stadium) pitch from playing their last year with Wales and obviously played there against the Reds a couple of weeks prior. It is a pitch that's a little bit soft underfoot and it had obviously had a fair bit of rain the day before too so I generally encourage our boys to wear as long studs as possible."
Lealiifano is expected to be available for Saturday's must-win clash at Etihad Stadium and is likely to assume the kicking duties if selected.
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