One of the greatest kickers in the history of rugby, England's Jonny Wilkinson owes his phenomenal success less to his "praying mantis" style of preparation than a barely noticed movement of his right arm, scientists say.
Players who swing their non-kicking-side arm across their chest as they make contact with the ball are nearly twice as accurate as those who use this arm less or not at all, they say.
Researchers at the University of Bath, in England, asked five experienced kickers at university first-team level to take part in an experiment in biomechanics -- the study of body movement and posture.
Using a standard size-five rugby ball and wearing reflective markers, the guinea pigs carried out seven trials for kicking accuracy and seven trials for kicking distance in a large indoor sports hall.
They were filmed simultaneously by a network of 11 cameras. These transferred the data to motion analysis software, which transcribed in three dimensions every movement of the torso, head and limbs in all phases of the kick.
The most successful kickers by far were the ones who swung the arm, on their non-kicking side, across their chest as their toe smacked into the ball. For left-footer Wilkinson, the swinging arm is on his right side.
"In taking a kick, players try to have their torso facing the target at the point of impact with the ball," said researcher Grant Trewartha in the Sport and Exercise Science Department at the university's School for Health. "Swinging their non-kicking-side arm helps players to maintain this position for longer."
As a result, the player has a more powerful followthrough -- a `J'-shaped kicking action, rather than the weaker `C'-shaped one.
There is also a gain in accuracy, Trewartha said.
"When you examine their action from the front, it is clear that this action also helps counteract the swing of the leg, enabling the players to remain more upright at ball contact. This should increase their error of margin and increase their overall accuracy," he said.
Trewartha, who worked with PhD student Neil Bezodis, said the swinging-arm technique was used by the most successful kickers in the World Cup so far.
Wilkinson's signature two-armed stance as he prepares for the kicks is also important, as it is a pre-performance ritual that helps to steady him, Trewartha said.
"A lot of effort goes in to helping players prepare psychologically for key moments in games. For those that need it, biomechanical analysis of their technique could really help," he said.
A sudden shortage of locks in Australian rugby union has opened the door for Matt Philip to reclaim his Wallabies jersey, but the Melbourne Rebels player says that the uncertainties wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic have left him with a difficult choice. The Australian yesterday named Philip among 16 Rebels players either set to leave the Super Rugby club or seriously considering it, underscoring the challenge Rugby Australia faces to retain talent. Linked with a move to Section Paloise Bearn Pyrenees, commonly referred to as Pau, in France’s Top 14, Philip said that he had yet to settle his playing future, and
When Chinese Super League club Tianjin Tianhai surprisingly thrashed Rafael Benitez’s Dalian Yifang 5-1 to stay in the league in November last year, disgruntled fans were quick to allege corruption — the legacy of a murky past that exploded into scandal 10 years ago. Benitez, who led Liverpool to the 2005 UEFA Champions League title, was perplexed by one of the heaviest defeats of his coaching career, saying: “This is a game that I don’t quite understand.” Despite fan complaints to the Chinese Football Association (CFA), no case was brought and there is no evidence of wrongdoing. However, the haste with which some
As professional soccer returned to Denmark, fans used Zoom to be part of the action. Thousands of Danish soccer fans on Thursday logged on to the conferencing software and were transported to Ceres Park for a league match between AGF and Randers that heralded the resumption of the nation’s pandemic-affected soccer season. While the stadium itself was without fans, the faces of thousands of supporters who joined the Zoom call were shown on giant screens that ran along one side of the pitch. Families wearing club shirts and scarves cheered inside their living rooms. Some were seen clenching their fists in joy after
It is the land of the world champions, but is it really a soccer country? That is the question that some in France have been asking this week while its European neighbors work to bring the sport back after the COVID-19 shutdown. Debate has raged ever since Ligue 1 decided in late April to bring a premature end to the season with 10 rounds of matches unplayed. By contrast, two weeks have passed since the Bundesliga restarted, while Italian Minister for Sport Vincenzo Spadafora on Thursday confirmed that Serie A would return on June 20, and La Liga and the English Premier