The USA spent much of last Saturday box kicking (which is the high kick made by the scrumhalf from the base of a ruck, maul, lineout or scrum).
The purpose of the kick is the gain territory, either by kicking to touch, or kicking to space for teammates to run onto.
But the USA box kicks were a failure. Players didn't chase. When they did chase they didn't stay in a disciplined line (hence Canada's first try). The kicks were too high and not far enough. One kick went out on the full. Players were offside.
Only, really, once did it work, when Blaine Scully caught the kick in the air and set up a platform. But even then, the USA had not made that much territory and because the players were unsure how it would all pan out, nothing came of it.
A box kick should go to space and precipitate an invasion of chasers to get the ball, and keep it moving quickly downfield.
Because you've kicked, you have put the ball behind the defense, well then, don't wait for that defense to get back onside ... get moving!
I showed this video in an earlier article, and the reason I showed it is because, even though this particular game happened 26 years ago, it follows the basic ideals of a good box kick (go to 6:30).
1. Kick goes to space. It's neither super-high nor too far.
2. The chase is very aggressive, but notice there are five guys right behind the main chase.
3. Main chaser doesn't even get the ball, but the support does, and his first move is to pass inside.
4. Everyone for Scotland is running hard.
5. At 6:54: Tackle, quick ball and notice the French are still getting back onside.
6. Nothing fancy but still going forward and making sure the ball is available (ball carriers don't turn and present anymore, why not?).
7. Quick ball, pass, pass, onto an onrushing wing from depth. Try (which ties a World Cup game by the way).
That’s how to execute a box kick.
Here’s another issue with the box kick, and it has less to do with execution, and more to do with its inherent faults. If you want your flyhalf to kick, you know he is always taking a quick look at the defense, making a read, and then kicking to the right spot, or deciding the kick's not the right thing, and run or pass.
But a box kick from your scrumhalf is rarely that. And when it's a read, it's a read often from someone else, who sees some green and wants the ball there to run onto. Using the box kick as a regular option takes the decision-making out of the equation. The scrumhalf is going to kick. If your scrumhalf is right-footed and you’re defending the touchline on your left, you just wait along that touchline and take the ball back. There’s no surprise, especially if the kicking team (the USA) has been doing it all day.
The box kick, then, is a great play when someone on your team sees the space and thinks there are chasers. It is not the go-to for any type of ground-gaining kick.
What we haven't seen from the USA is the wiper kick. This is a long, sweeping kick that is especially useful in freeing up a winger who has speed, but is getting bottled up.
Takudzwa Ngwenya can't find space? Find space downfield for him. It’s how the Eagles 7s team has been setting up tries for Carlin Isles.
As is so often the case in rugby, you have to think why you’re doing something. A tactic isn’t worth anything if it’s not clear what the objective is. For the USA box kick, the objective has to be two-fold – gain possession further downfield. If you’re not focused on both of those objectives, then why do it?