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Dublin: 10°C Monday 8 March 2021

'He missed. He's human, that's life' - Lions tee still up for grabs ahead of Tests

Leigh Halfpenny and Owen Farrell are the leading candidates for the job.

Murray Kinsella reports from New Zealand

LIONS KICKING COACH Neil Jenkins says the tourists still haven’t decided who their first-choice place-kicker is.

Owen Farrell, Leigh Halfpenny, Dan Biggar, Johnny Sexton and Greig Laidlaw are all options off the tee on this tour, with Elliot Daly capable of long-range shots at goal, although one of Halfpenny or Farrell are likely to kick in the Test series.

Own Farrell kicks at goal Farrell takes a shot at goal. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Welsh fullback was first-choice kicker ahead of Sexton on the 2013 tour and he was the most successful kicker of this tour’s lot during the 2017 Six Nations.

“It depends on who’s in the team firstly, but I think across the board we’re pretty strong in that respect,” says Jenkins.

“It’s not going to be easy but selection is firstly more important with who’s playing, and then kicker selection comes from that.”

Whoever it is that takes on place-kicking responsibility, Jenkins is confident that it will be an advantage for the Lions.

“I think any side in any Test match that you play in, if you know that there’s someone on the opposite side that if you give a penalty away within 50 metres you’re going to get punished, it makes your offence a little bit better because teams maybe fractionally don’t want to play the edges as much as they normally would because they think, ‘It could be a penalty here, it could be three points.’”

Farrell had an uncharacteristic miss off the tee against the Highlanders on Tuesday night, denying the Lions the chance to move 25-20 ahead at a crucial point of the game in the final quarter.

But Jenkins says the Lions won’t be dwelling on that miss in their decision around who should kick.

Leigh Halfpenny kicks a penalty Halfpenny is superb off the tee. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

“Owen’s world-class, we know that, he wanted it, he was comfortable to take it,” says Jenkins. “He missed. He’s human, that’s life. He wanted to kick so I’ve got no issues whatsoever.

“Players will miss kicks, they are human. These boys don’t miss very often, it’s one of those things. He’s ready for it.”

There was also place-kicking drama later in the game as the Lions won a penalty inside their half, with Daly opting to have a shot, before referee Angus Gardner accepted complaints from the Highlanders and moved the point of the penalty two metres further back.

Daly subsequently missed. Jenkins says the Lions did bite back at those complaints from the Highlanders to referee Angus Gardner at the time, but to no avail.

‘We did really, but it was pretty much a case of, ‘That’s what it is, we’re going back.’ The screen [in the stadium] was on as well. In terms of where the mark was, he was probably right, but where he’s actually given it – that’s where we were taking the shot.

“I don’t know whether you [the ref] can change your mind and say, ‘I got it wrong.’ If you do say that then I’d say we should have the option, so that if we want to play for touch, we can. But that wasn’t discussed, Elliot had a pop and it came up short.”

Knowing those ultimate limits for their place-kickers will be vital for the Lions in the Test series and Jenkins says it has been discussed.

“We’ll have a guideline. For most of them, from the halfway line, I’m not saying they would be comfortable, but they wouldn’t be far off.

Owen Farrell kicks Farrell missed against the Highlanders. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“It just depends on the day but you’ve also got to play the conditions in New Zealand. There can be a little bit of a freeze in Auckland, Hamilton is the same – we’ve been there quite a few times with Wales and it can be quite tough – and Wellington can be very tricky.

“So there are different scenarios which might mean the kickers’ range is up to 55m, or down to 40 or 45m. It depends on the conditions. We will adapt to that when the time comes.”

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Murray Kinsella

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