World Rugby are scrambling to change 50:22 law after this
When World Rugby introduced the 50:22 law variation, they would have pictured fly-halves and fullbacks doing the bulk of the kicking. In fact, they may have imagined any back doing it, but they certainly did not have plans on No8s producing the kicks.
However, Billy Vunipola joined a very elite club on Sunday of forwards that have achieved a 50:22. A club so elite that he may well be the only player in it, certainly in the Gallagher Premiership.
The Saracen produced the kick in the first half against Bath at The Rec, and his confidence was probably a sign of things to come. Any side that sees the opposing No8 pull off something like this will know they are in for a long afternoon, and so it proved to be as the West Country outfit were pulverised by the visitors 71-17.
Now the idea of a No8 kicking a 50:22 it is not actually inconceivable, as they spend a lot of time in the back field covering kicks. Inevitably there will be space behind the defensive line, and with legs like battering rams, Vunipola and players of his ilk will obviously be able to leather the ball the required distance when they connect- accuracy is another matter entirely.
What made this kick different from the 61-cap England international was that this was not a case of him catching the ball in the back field, neither was this a case of smashing the ball as hard as he could. Instead, he was part of the attacking line when he put in a deft nudge that his fly-half Owen Farrell would have been proud of.
Take a look:
Billy Vunipola qui met lui aussi un 50:22. Dans quel monde vit-on ? pic.twitter.com/nCWS8DhtSA
— Gauthier Baudin (@GauthierBaudin) October 17, 2021
With Eddie Jones announcing his England squad today for the autumn, Vunipola would have been desperate to impress him. The 28-year-old has come back this season rejuvenated after missing out on Jones’ initial England squad. However, kicking 50:22s may not necessarily be part of the job description of an England No8.