Dragons fly-half Jason Tovey is the latest Magners League star to tell us about his kicking habits ahead of our competition master classes.
The 21-year-old has scored more than a century of Magners League points this term and will be hoping to add to that tally when the Dragons welcome third-placed Leinster to Rodney Parade this Sunday.
Tovey’s thoughts will then turn to our Kick your way to the Grand Final master class the following Wednesday in which the reigning Welsh professionals’ Young Player of the Year will pass on his advice to six budding kickers.
The venue for the master class is none other than Rodney Parade and Tovey insists it’s a ground he loves kicking at, even if he gets rained on a little mote often than he’d like.
The former Newport, Bedwas and Risca playmaker admits that weather conditions do play a part in Newport, just as they do in Connacht, but that isn’t the case at all 12 Magners League grounds.
“You can definitely feel the fans at Rodney Parade willing you on. When you do kick the ball over, you can see what it means to them as well,” said Tovey, who is now in his third season of Magners League rugby.
“I can see why opposition kickers get haunted by Rodney Parade as the crowd do get on their backs.
“The conditions depend on whether we’re playing on a Friday night, to be honest! If it’s a Friday night it’s usually hammering it down with rain. But it’s one of the only actual rugby pitches left in Wales so conditions are great.
“Obviously the ball’s a bit more slippery when it’s wet so it might not come off your foot quite the same as a dry ball does. The planted foot is the main concern then. If your planted foot’s not ready then your whole routine can go wrong.
“Galway is probably one of the toughest places to kick because of the wind, which blows all over the place. At the newer places like the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium or the Blues at the Cardiff City Stadium, there are hardly any conditions to compete with. They’re obviously the better places to kick.”
Jason Tovey has scored over 100 points this term
While the weather is one aspect of life that a kicker cannot control, technique is something that can be worked on.
Practice is clearly a key element to success on the pitch, as is confidence and the ability not to linger on past failings.
“I usually have 12 or so kicks three times a week,” added Tovey.
“I try and do as many sessions as I can at Rodney Parade, but when it’s hammering down with rain they don’t usually allow us on the pitch. Luckily, I’ve got a rugby field right behind where I live.
“Who you practice with changes. Sometimes before a matchday I kick on my own but throughout the week it’s good to have Matt (fellow kicker Matthew Jones) there because if one of us misses, we talk through it. We help each other and we generally have a laugh about it.
“When you’ve been kicking for so long, I think you realise things like ‘I haven’t hit that one right’ or ‘my step was all wrong’. You do get used to it and realise where you’ve gone wrong.
“Every kicker’s hope is to have an easy kick right in front of the posts for the first kick of the game. But if you do miss a kick in a match, it’s just one of those things.
“You know where your limits are so anything within you radar, you’d be more than happy to have a crack.”
As for the kicking master class itself, two of the six competition winners will be given the chance to kick at the half-time interval of a Dragons’ Magners League match.
Which two will depend on who shines the brightest on the day, meaning dealing with pressure will be part of the process.
But despite knowing what’s at stake for the lucky six, Tovey has one piece of advice that will serve them well come next Wednesday:
“It’s the same for every kicker: just don’t let the pressure get to you, relax and take it as just another kick.”