#9 Expect more drop goals
In eight Rugby World Cup finals, there have been 6 drop goals, and in two of those finals, the last drop goal was the winning difference (1995 and 2003).
Why this matters
Beauden Barrett potted two drop goals (against England and Ireland) during the 2018 end of year tour. They were his first drop goals in more than 70 tests.
Now obviously, in part, this was a response to the criticism heaved at the All Blacks for failing to close out the game against the Springboks in Wellington earlier in the year, when they had the field position to kick the winner in the dying stages when trailing by two points, but took the wrong option. (And by the way, he dropped the goals when the ABs had a penalty advantage within shooting range, so it wasn’t a real deal set up, it was just taking the three.)
But it’s also an indication that the coaches want to see the capability in their first-five as we head into World Cup year. In a clutch situation late in a knock out match, we need to have confidence in the drop goal option. Just as importantly, we need the opposition to know it’s in our armoury, so that if they see our first-five drop back in the pocket they will send defenders that way. Which might, just might, create the gaps needed to make a run and pass play to score a try.
So expect to see Damien McKenzie and Richie Mo’unga taking the opportunity in Super Rugby to show their drop kicking skills under pressure as well.
Three of those World Cup final drop kicks came in just one match, the 1995 final between South Africa and New Zealand.
Joel Stransky and Andrew Mehrtens each potted one in regular time, and Mehrtens had another late attempt which would have won the match if it had gone over. It didn’t.
So with the score tied at 9-9 after 80 minutes, we had the first ever extra time in international rugby. Each side then scored a penalty, before Joel Stransky dropped the winner.
Well, at least it made Nelson Mandela happy.
Andrew Mehrtens played 70 tests for the All Blacks (8 as a substitute), scoring 967 points (7 tries, 169 conversions, 188 penalties, and 10 dropped goals).
Beauden Barrett has played 73 tests for the All Blacks so far (30 as a substitute), scoring 595 points (32 tries, 138 conversions, 51 penalties, and 2 dropped goals).