Rugby Thoughts – Analytics and Continuity

This is my weekly brain dump and this week I’ll be talking about analytics and continuity of selection.

Analytics

This has come up a couple of times over the last week, the Guardian had a good piece on how Saracens are using analytics. This is something that The Eggchasers Rugby Podcast picked up on earlier in the season and something that I think I have mentioned in passing before.

Also I read somewhere that the 6 Nations table last year was same for points as it was for kicks made. Apparently the statistics tell us that the side that kicks the most and makes the most tackles is most likely to win. So here is that table so far and I’ll keep it updated throughout the 6 Nations.

Team Points Kicks from hand Tackles Made
Ireland 2 28 117
France 2 29 112
England 2 32 145
Wales 0 32 135
Scotland 0 25 135
Italy 0 15 198

The kicking one I have heard quoted a lot, along with “the All Blacks kick the most” so I’m not surprised about that. The tackle one I am a surprised about as it quite often leads to a team getting tired and giving up points at the end of a game. However I have noticed a few games this season in the Aviva Premiership where the side making the most tackles has won.

I’m sorry there is no link to the article about kicking and tackles as I can’t remember where I read it. Stats in the table are taken from the game reports on ESPN Scrum.

Continuity of Selection

England have picked the same side, Wales have changed only one player for the next round of games in the 6 Nations. Whilst they have both gone for continuity the situation for the two teams is very different.

Wales have had a settled side for a number of years now that has slowly evolved overtime. They did lose last weekend and there have been questions asking if they have been found out. The answer to that is yes but they were “found out” years ago, it’s been several years now that people have known how Wales are going to play. The problem is stopping it, yes it happens sometimes but has won the 6 Nations twice in the last 3 years. I don’t think anyone should be surprised with this selection with the only change being enforced due to concussion. Those that were calling for 4 or 5 changes should have known it was futile and also wrong this far into a world cup cycle when you have a settled side. The course is set and it’s a matter of ridding it out.

England are in a totally different situation with no one able to definitively say who the team would be before the last game and are coming off a win. A lot of commentators are saying that Lancaster has stumbled upon his best team by chance. Lancaster clearly believes in keeping a winning team as he did in the 6 Nations last year but will make changes when losing as he has done since. This is what has generated the “stumbled upon” comments as he hasn’t show conviction in selection. Personally I would have liked to see some changes especially on the bench. Not having a full-time 2nd row is not a longterm solution at this level and he should make the call between Croft and Easter as the back row substitute. As players come back from injury it’s going to be interesting to see if Lancaster can make the difficult calls over. Will he bring back players that have preformed previously for him or stick with the same team over the next few weeks? In contrast to Wales the selection course to the world cup is unclear and will cause much more discussion over the following months.

#RugbyChat

We had a really good Twitter chat last Tuesday using the hashtag #RugbyChat. We only got through half the questions that I had prepared as there was so much chatter going on. Who we were looking forward to see playing in SuperRugby and potential break out players were covered. We also discussed if the tournament is devalued by the resting of the international players for the RWC. We were beaten on the trending stakes by something about goats in movie titles but had a tweet reach of 786K, if anyone knows what that means please let me know.

We’ll be back again this coming Tuesday chatting about the key events of the opening round of Super Rugby and choosing the tastiest game of round 2. The time around the world we will be online is:

NZ 8pm
Sydney 6pm
South Africa 9am
UK 7am

Please join us and chip in with your views.

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