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John Dolva

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Well, it's a ball and it's kicked by feet. (just checking the MSM before going to bed)

World Cup - Wilkinson: World Cup flop down to 'joke' balls

Tue, 08 Nov 11:29:00 2011

Jonny Wilkinson has lashed out at the balls used during the Rugby World Cup, branding them a "joke" and blasting organisers as "horribly unprofessional".

England went out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage, with Wilkinson's kicking - he landed just half of his shots on goal during the tournament - a significant contributing factor both in England's close-run wins over Argentina and Scotland and their eventual defeat by France.

"I'm sick to my stomach of thinking about how hard I've practised kicking over all those years and what little good it has done me at such an important time," the England fly-half has written in his new autobiography. "It angers me.

"The problem is that when you feel like you're smashing it and the feedback is telling you that everything is great, yet the ball is swinging both ways and missing one way and then the other, you're left with a very difficult situation. From then on it's a joke.

"My feeling is that it's just horribly unprofessional and an extremely bitter pill to swallow that, at the biggest tournament in the sport, we're having to deal with this."

A spokesman for Gilbert, the ball manufacturer, denied that there was a problem and insisted that the balls had been tested extensively - including by Wilkinson - before being used in matches.

"I'm not going to get into a war of words with Jonny, but I will defend our World Cup ball to the hilt," Gilbert's Andy Challis told the Telegraph, insisting that every ball used had been tested by former England star Paul Grayson.

"It was extensively used last season in the November internationals and Six Nations and Jonny was given a chance to test it personally more than a year ago. We couldn't have done more and many kickers in New Zealand seemed to thrive using the same ball."

But Wilkinson had been adamant that the balls were anything but consistent.

"Again and again I'm hitting the same kick every time but it's non-match ball straight through the middle, match ball to the right.

"The organisers claim that all the balls are the same, but they're not. If they were they wouldn't be doing this."

Wilkinson also defended the actions of coaches Dave Alred and Paul Stridgeon, who were censured by tournament organisers for switching the balls that Wilkinson was using to attempt conversions during the match against Romania.

"It's not exactly surprising that I wouldn't want a ball that flies miles from where it's supposed to," he said.

Wilkinson's complaints were derided during the tournament but several other kickers - including Welsh star James Hook and Scotland's usually metronomic Chris Paterson - also suffered uncharacteristic problems with their kicking and recorded success rates far below their usual average.

And one analyst, former All Black Matthew Cooper, backed Wilkinson's claims that something strange was going on.

"A player like him, who is the world's best, struggling, suggests there is some rationale behind it," Cooper, now a TV analyst, told the New Zealand Herald.

"I was concerned about the balls mid-flight and seeing where they were going. The ball seemed to lose its trajectory or its flight and that suggests to me that once the momentum had gone out of the kick it tended to have a bit of drift in the ball."



This is interesting. A similar thing could be seen in the German World Cup (football, soccer) when the new ball was introduced and it seemed the shape of the shoe matters. The drift happens at a particular speed during the balls travel and is dependent on spin.

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