When to take the three points on offer from a penalty kick has been the bane of Michael Hooper’s captaincy, seemingly with little discernible pattern behind the decision making and with a tendency to fly in the face of the ‘feel’ of the game when making calls.
Even in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final after a good period of possession, a kick in front was declined when screaming to be kicked. It would have closed the gap to nine against England with more than ten minutes to go, but the now inevitable kick for the corner came, England defended well at close quarters, and that was all she wrote.
On four separate occasions in the recent draw with Argentina, the kick for the corner was the option when it was clear this was a game going to be decided by the goalkickers.
There is an ongoing lack of patience evident here, together with perhaps an overdeveloped faith in their own set-piece and attacking abilities. I thought the change of coach would bring with it a change of attitude in the regard, but to date it appears not.
Fear not, those with the three-point phobia, there is a game which can be held up as a shining example of how to take the three on offer and keep yourself in a game.
In a Champions Cup match from this season, Clermont played Munster and the former flew out of the blocks, scoring a try in the first minute and four in the first 23 minutes.
Munster did not fire a shot but every time they were awarded a penalty, they kicked for the sticks.
After 23 minutes it was 28-9 to Clermont.
But taking the three proved a godsend for Munster. Six times in that first hour they took some time out of the game, kicked the three points, and despite a French onslaught, were somehow still in it in the latter stages.
And this is where the real value in taking those points earlier came in – Clermont knew they were the better side and should have this one locked away, but Munster were still in touch.
And Clermont began to make errors trying to ice a game they mentally had already sealed.
Muster scored two converted tries in the last ten minutes for a most unexpected comeback and all on the back of a string of penalties and a healthy dose of tenaciousness.
The lessons in this game are worth noting.