The Kicking Divide Between Hemispheres

Published on: 11th June 2016

Filled Under: Analysis

Views: 50051

Update: 18/02/2017 France and Long-range are added as new categories. All other kicking stats have been updated where possible.

Kicking statistics.

I started this research into goal kicking as an act to become informed about kicking options and after watching the movie Moneyball I thought I would do some rudimentary stat analysis of my own. I mention the fact it is rudimentary because if you talk to any kickers they will admit that there are easy kicks and there are hard kicks. These stats don’t take into account the difficulty of any of the kicks in any way. However, if we assume that the difficulty of a player’s kicks are normally distributed due to the reasonably random way tries can be scored and penalties given away, I think this can be a fair comparison. At the very least it is the best comparison I can find online and if backroom staff have a better way they haven’t told me about it.

Late Disclaimer- All stats are lifetime stats for each kicker, other sites look at international stats but I have factored in their club history as well.


Onward and downwards to the STATS!


Player Name Attempts at Goal       Success Percentage
Bernard Foley 372 463 76% 79.91%
Christian Lealiifano 404 74.7%
Kurtley Beale 256 66%
Matt Giteau 604 79%


You can see that the media dubbed ”Iceman” is indeed the lifetime leader for the current squad although as a squad 76% is not that impressive. Australia will have to continue with a high pace, try scoring attitude to have continued success with Foley kicking at goal. To be fair to him he’s more than capable of executing that game plan effectively and it doesn’t appear to get any better behind him. He does have more success than his Bledisloe competitors which is probably all Cheika cares about.

Update: Foley has made gains on the top level 10s up North not quite breaking the 80% mark but not far off. I hope he keeps on improving and isn’t just a high-pressure Iceman.


New Zealand:Beauden Barrett

Player Name Attempts at Goal       Success Percentage
Aaron Cruden 474 499 73%
Lima Sopoaga 318 355 74%
Beauden Barrett 478 581 71% 72%
Dan Carter 1561 1617 79% 78.6%
Player Name Attempts at Goal       Success Percentage
Richie Mo’unga 101 70.3%

Here the surprise for the majority might be how close the current squads kick success rate is to each other. Once you realise that regardless of the Flyhalf New Zealand pick they are getting a 73ish% success then the reason behind picking Cruden becomes extremely obvious. As a better defender and a player that puts on consistent masterclasses in attack, there is little reason for Hansen to look beyond him. That isn’t to say that Sopoaga isn’t world class but more that he doesn’t actually have the massive goal kicking edge everyone believes he has. I think he’d make most international sides based on his attacking style alone but as a Kiwi, he’s stuck behind Aaron Cruden for the time being.

Update: Stats stay the same in the main but Richie Mo’unga can now be added and Dan Carter seems to be dropping slightly from his previous 79% not that it matters at this point in his career


South Africa:Handre Pollard

Player Name Attempts at Goal       Success Percentage
Pat Lambie 379 387 76.5%
Elton Jantjies 270 339 77.6%
Handre Pollard 184 79.8%
Morne Steyn 1148 1177 80.5% 80.6%


Here we see the first Southern Hemisphere historical kicker reach an 80+% in Morne Steyn. However because of the reasonably low attempts at goal from Pollard and Jantjies I’m taking these stats with a pinch of salt both ways. It doesn’t scream average and it doesn’t claim to be phenomenal in fact both these players have put themselves into positions to take that percentage up into the 80s and Pollard especially is showing a lot of talent in that department. Either way, the battle for flyhalf will be very interesting over the next few years in South Africa and their developing kicking games will certainly come into play.

Update: Morne Steyn is getting better and the others stay the same. Not many kicks taken since I last took their stats.

You might have noticed I left Argentina out of this Southern Hemisphere analysis and I have out of laziness. Time to move North.

England:Owen Farrell

Player Name Attempts at Goal       Success Percentage
Owen Farrell 753 871 84.2%
George Ford 577 655 81% 78.6%
Danny Cipriani 767 785 74%
Jonny Wilkinson 1700 86%
Charlie Hodgson 1569 81%


The difference is immediately obvious and further compounded when you bring in second string legend Charlie Hodgson who turns up with an 81% success rate. If you play fly-half for England the coaching staff want an 80%+ success rate anything lower and you’ll struggle to get a look in. This trend will become even more noticeable as we move through the NH sides.

If we take another look at these stats and compare the attempts at goal of Owen Farrell and his SH competitors his success rate is sublime and a real strength that Eddie Jones will continue to use.

With over double the number of attempts at goal and a consistently high success rate, it is obvious that Jonny Wilkinson has changed the way the world thinks about goal kicking.

Update: George Ford has fallen away from his 81% kicking standard as most NH fans would have expected after his last few seasons. Hopefully, he regains confidence and bounces back


Player Name Attempts at Goal Success Percentage
Johnny Sexton 798 830 88.7%
Paddy Jackson 388 488 81.3%
Ian Madigan 382 411 87.6%
Ronan O’Gara 1276 86%
Player Name Attempts at Goal Success Percentage
Joey Carbery 40 67.5%

Once again we struggle to find a poor kicker in this Northern Hemisphere side. Johnny Sexton has the joint highest success rate down to the decimal place of all the kickers I’ve assessed. A phenomenal achievement and it really highlights an area that is taken for granted in Sexton’s game. The other surprise from these stats is how good a kicker Ian Madigan is statistically, he has a reputation as an inconsistent goal kicker which he apparently doesn’t deserve. To the point that if you walked up to a rugby fan in a pub and asked them how they think he compares to George Ford and Bernard Foley I’d put my money on them avoiding Maddog like the plague.

Update: Madigan leaving for France and Paddy Jackson stepping up to the plate during Sexton’s injured spell makes the Irish 10 shirt far more interesting than most. Carbery has been added but only 40 attempts makes it a stupid stat to compare. This battle will only get more exciting as time goes on.

Wales:Dan Biggar

Player Name Attempts at Goal Success Percentage
Dan Biggar 824 889 88.7% 88.2%
Leigh Halfpenny 507 616 88.5% 87.01%
Rhys Priestland 486 514 85.6% 85.8%
Stephen Jones 1075 1078 87% 87.2%

Here’s the shock of the piece in my opinion. When I first ran through the results I had obviously wanted to see who the best kicker was. But I also wanted to be sure they had a reasonable number of attempts under their belt. When I saw Dan Biggar’s stats I was surprised not only by the success but at the number of attempts he had at goal. At the age of 26, he has more attempts than a 30-year-old Sexton and a 33-year-old Matt Giteau. Now, this could be a Sexton sitting behind O’Gara for too long thing but regardless Dan Biggar has the best kicking percentage with the highest number of attempts at goal. He beats off the legend that is Jonny Wilkinson who must be viewed as an anomaly with 1700 attempts at goal and he possibly requires a more complicated analysis. He also beats his teammate Leigh Halfpenny by .2% which is nothing but once again as with Sexton he has more attempts and therefore it remains clear cut to me.

Update: Biggar has lost a few decimal places and so has Halfpenny but Johnny Sexton has kept his percentage high and so the battle for top spot rages on.

Miscellaneous:Greig Laidlaw

Player Name Attempts at Goal Success Percentage
Nicolas Sanchez 246 323 82%
Juan Martin Hernandez 173 89.5%
Finn Russell 187 247 77%
Greig Laidlaw  659 747 86.3%

This table just stands to the credit of Laidlaw who stands head and shoulders above any Scottish challengers. It also is a testament to how attempts drastically affect the percentages seen above because although Hernandez is a fantastic footballer he is not the best goal kicker of all time.


Player Name Attempts at Goal       Success Percentage
Chris Paterson  587 88%
Felipe Contepomi 868 85%

I’ve since added Chris Paterson and Contepomi who I previously left out. Paterson’s stats are quite telling in that his attempts are fairly low for a retired international standard kicker. It is thought that his selection of kicks has meant that he only ever took ones that were within his range. As a result, he may be one of the historical kickers with a low number of difficult kicks but without further analysis we may never really know.

Contepomi comes out of this very well with a high number of attempts and a consistently high success rate he was very clearly a world class player off the tee.




Player Name Attempts at Goal Success Percentage
Jean-Marc Doussain 127 86.6%
Camille Lopez 220 81.8%
Fredrick Michalak 470 87.2%
François Trinh-Duc 103 96.1%
      Player Name     Attempts at Goal Success Percentage
Morgan Parra 506 88.1%
Jules Plisson 255 81.6%

The French can kick very consistently which makes sense considering the style of the Top 14. Not much to add aside from the very low number of attempts from all apart from Parra and Michalak. More to come from the French in this area and all consistently over 80%

Long range:


Player Name Attempts at Goal Success Percentage
Elliot Daly 76 60.5%
Scott Spedding 24 58.3%
Kurtley Beale 256 66.0%
Stuart Hogg 60 60.0%

I love a long range pop at goal because it keeps defending teams honest in their own half. If any of these players are on the pitch the opposition will often think twice before putting their hand in the cookie jar. Daly in particular is very dangerous with his massive range and quick-fire style he’s taken to punishing teams almost before they’ve had a chance to get back behind the posts.

What have we learned?

Well, I’ve learned that the NH is the better hemisphere for goal kickers and is prioritised above an attacking style of play in most cases. I’ve also seen that the media often don’t really have a clue statistically speaking as Sopoaga, Foley and Madigan have slightly distorted reputations in terms of goal kicking. In the case of Sopoaga specifically, he had one excellent 84% season followed by a 69% season in which the winning of the Super Rugby title whitewashed his poor stats off the tee.


In summary, read the stats interpret them how you want but as always it will only ever give you a partial story for why a fly-half is picked to play international rugby.


Stats painstakingly taken from and turned into easily digestible percentages.


Written by Sav



8 Responses to The Kicking Divide Between Hemispheres

  1. Kevin says:

    Good article. Not sure where your read that Madigan is inconsistent with the boot? Its pretty the much the only reason hes been ahead of Jackson (who is criticised for inconsistency in front of the posts) for Ireland. I’m actually quite surprised at how high Sextons % is. Until recently I would have said that it was one of his weaknesses at International level. I would have considered Madigan the best place kicker in Ireland.

  2. Pete says:

    Great little article.
    It would have been good to see Jenkins in the Wales stats to see how he compared to modern kickers. 1st man over 1000 points and almost entirely from his boot?

    • Sav says:

      Ask and you shall receive. Neil Jenkins off 386 attempts had a 93.2% success rate. A ridiculous stat. However, I have no idea how accurate my stats are for truly historical kickers but if we take that as read then he is the greatest of all time.

  3. mike says:

    You sure about Dan Carter’s percentage being 79%? ESPN has it as 88.83%

    • Sav says:

      I’m sure about them.

      ESPN only do International stats and I’ve taken into account his lifetime of playing club rugby as well. If we look at the ESPN stats they cover specific International tournaments with his Bledisloe and TRC stats being below 79%. Looking at these results there is an argument that Dan Carter stepped up to big occasions as he seems to perform phenomenally at Rugby World Cups and 93% on the biggest stage is Neil Jenkins esq. Thanks for asking this question and leaving the link it is very interesting stuff.

  4. Hugo says:

    Hats off Sav, excellent article as it’s actually quite difficult to locate kicking percentages, there’s plenty on how many successful kicks players have but not the attempts/percentage. Fascinating information & a clever insight into the different prioritisation of rugby cultures in various countries. I’ve often noticed the difference listening to NZ commentators versus Irish/English commentators when it comes to place-kicking or especially offloading, NZ commentators it’s no big deal if a kicker misses or an off-load gets turned-over, whereas up here in NH you’ll invariably get the ‘expert’ analyst chirping in after the mistake saying something like ”should have used the boot & cleared the lines”, basically imo there’s a risk-averse culture in the NH when compared to the pace setting New Zealanders.

  5. Robert says:

    Great article, really enjoyed reading it! I was going to ask about Neil Jenkins but was clearly beaten to it. Very interesting and certainly shows how the importance of goal kicking has not been the same in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.

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