Who holds the record for the longest place kick in international rugby union?

The record for the longest place kick in international rugby union is held by former Neath full-back Paul Thorburn, who kicked a penalty from 70 yards and 8 inches, or 64.2 metres, for Wales against Scotland in a Five Nations match at the National Stadium, Cardiff on February 1, 1986. Wales led 9-8 at half-time and, in the second half, still held a slender 16-15 lead. At that point, Scots flanker Finlay Calder was penalised for a late tackle on Welsh fly-half Jonathan Davies, where the ball landed, just inside the Welsh ten-metre line.

From a position well inside his own half, convential wisdom dictated that Thorburn would kick for touch, to obtain better field position, rather than going for goal, but Thorburn, winning just his fifth full cap, had different ideas. He later recalled, ‘I had told [Welsh captain] David Pickering that I would have a go and knew that, if I missed, it would still leave play in the Scotland half. Even so, incredulous commentator Bill McLaren said, ‘…but this would be a monster’, as Thorburn lined up his attempt.

A monster it proved, too. Thorburn gave the ball what he later described as ‘a real hoof’ towards the River Taff end of the ground and over the crossbar it sailed. ‘That is amazing!’ enthused McLaren, having just witnessed the longest place kick in over a century of Welsh rugby and, still, the longest in the history of international rugby union.

Thorburn later remarked, ‘That kick alone almost led to me having an American football career’. In fact, his ‘career’ in American football was limited to kicking off for the Los Angeles Rams against the Denver Broncos in a pre-season friendly, dubbed the ‘American Bowl’, at Wembley Stadium on August 9, 1987. Unfortunately, his kick-off came up ‘a little shy’, reaching only the Broncos 22-yard line, and Thorburn was never seen again in a Rams uniform.

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