Don’t let the handful amount of times it’s worked sway you – the drop goal has no real place in the All Black arsenal.
Before every World Cup, as if on cue, the rugby world starts talking about whether the All Blacks will finally embrace the drop goal. And this year is no different.
Justin Marshall kicked off the four yearly discussions with an article in the New Zealand Herald early this month, and no doubt the subject will become fodder for sports radio as the drop goal gets a bit of exercise in pool matches.
Its proponents will be quick to remind you how a drop goal could have saved New Zealand in the 20-18 quarter final loss to France in 2007 or of the extra time kick by Joel Stransky’s that ended the All Blacks dreams in the 1995 final against South Africa.
But realistically there is a reason why drop goals are over emphasised in World Cup victories and losses – they are an act of desperation.
Something that happens when you’re two points down in a must-win situation, up against an impenetrable defence, and there is 3 minutes left on the clock.
At any other time, an unsuccessful droppie results in an instantaneous removal of any pressure the offense has managed to build. It becomes a tacit acknowledgement that the team doesn’t believe they have the capability to break through the defensive line. The other team is basically off the hook.
Keeping the pressure on creates more opportunities for penalties (especially inside the 22) or even cards, which are more than likely, given how bad goal-line discipline is in the modern game.
And there is always a chance that the defence will break and a try will be scored. Pressure = points.
So instead of debating how ready the All Blacks are to break out the drop goal, maybe we should be asking: what happened to the chip and chase?
Sure it is risky, but it fills much the same purpose as a drop goal without taking the pressure off.
The high bomb used to be common amongst our outside backs – the likes of Cullen and Rokocoko. Now it’s probably only something you’d see from Conrad Smith, and not all that often.
It also fits in better with the New Zealand style of rugby and given how flat modern rush defence is, it is arguably a far more relevant and useful skill for the close games.
On the eve of the Rugby World Cup however – these are all moot points.
The All Blacks coaching staff have conceded that they have been working on drop goals behind the scenes (naturally they should be) but realistically we should expect to see the solid, safe rugby that has seen us through years and years of being the most successful team on the planet.
That is if we don’t choke.