MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - Every Rugby World Cup has been won by a nation with a strong goal-kicker who can turn pressure into points and it is likely to be the case again in France with the teams who have come through tight contests so far all having one thing in common.
The history of the knockout rounds suggests it will be fine margins that win games, and a kicker operating at 80% plus could be the difference between victory and a bitter defeat.
There have been 14 tries scored in the previous eight World Cup finals, less than two per match, with 73% of the points in those deciding games coming from kicks at poles.
The tournament in France has already shown that when two heavyweights collide it is the boot that makes the difference.
That was no more starkly illustrated then in Saturday’s epic in Paris as Ireland beat South Africa 13-8, with the latter throwing away 11 points from the kicking tee. It was not the only reason for the Springboks’ defeat, but a major one.
France fullback Thomas Ramos proved the match-winner when the hosts beat New Zealand 27-13 in the opening game, booting 17 points as the All Blacks’ Richie Mo’unga had a 33% success rate off the tee.
Fiji scrumhalf Simione Kuruvoli is not known for his kicking, but landed five from five shots at goal against Australia in the historic 22-15 victory for the Pacific Islanders.
The Wallabies scored two tries to one in that match but it was kicks at poles that took Fiji to the win.
George Ford landed three drop goals and six penalties to score all of England's points in the 27-10 win over Argentina, while the boot was on the other foot when the latter beat Samoa 19-10 and wing Emiliano Boffelli, in the side as a specialist kicker, was accurate off the tee and won the game.
Think too of the 18-18 draw between Portugal and Georgia that ended all square when both teams missed kickable shots at goal in the final few minutes.
The conditions so far in the tournament have been made for kickers with warm weather and the particular balls used.
Opta released figures early in the tournament showing each kick out of hand was travelling an average of 33.5 metres, almost three metres further than in the 2023 Six Nations and a full seven-and-a-half metres longer than this year’s Rugby Championship.
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)