Thursday 27 April 2017

Stats make bad reading for Irish Lions contenders

British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: Synergy PR/Canterbury/PA Wire
British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: Synergy PR/Canterbury/PA Wire
David Kelly

David Kelly

In the unlikely event that Warren Gatland may lean towards an over-analysis of statistics when choosing his Lions squad for New Zealand, he may opt for another Welsh-dominated selection if the latest number crunching is to be believed.

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray may be a half-back partnership nailed down in most pundits' minds but, according to a comprehensive, stats-based analysis of all 181 players in this season's Six Nations Championship, they weren't even the best in their positions.

And even though they won back-to-back titles, not one English player made the top ten.

In fact, Welsh scrum-half Rhys Webb tops the listing, compiled by Accenture using a formula that takes into account ball-carrying, tackling, points scored, kicking, set-piece success and errors.

Dan Biggar edges Sexton from the position of leading out-half - indeed so too does Scotland's Finn Russell - despite the fact that both Wales and Scotland finished in the bottom half of the table.

Murray is ranked the third best player while CJ Stander is the only other Irish international ranked in the top ten, at fifth.

Squeezing France has the most players inside the top 10, with Louis Picamoles and Baptiste Serin joined by openside flanker Kevin Gourdon and out-half Camille Lopez - who scored the most points in the tournament - squeezing in at nine and 10 on the list.

Despite Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Joe Launchbury all making the shortlist for the Player of the Championship award, none of that trio feature as the highest ranked Englishman either, with out-half George Ford taking that honour in 12th place, though Itoje and Ben Youngs are close behind in 14th and 15th respectively.

The rankings are: 1 Rhys Webb (Wales), 2 Louis Picamoles (France), 3 Conor Murray (Ireland), 4 Baptiste Serin (France), 5 CJ Stander (Ireland), 6 Ken Owens (Wales), 7 Dan Biggar (Wales), 8 Finn Russell (Scotland), 9 Kevin Gourdon (France), 10 Camille Lopez (France).

Accenture have also released a statistically-based team of the season which contradicts these findings and includes five Irish players in the starting 15. Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong are included as the starting props, along with Stander, while wings Keith Earls and Simon Zebo also make the cut.

Scotland's Russell, despite being ranked behind Biggar in the rating of all 181 players, makes the side, which is as follows: Stuart Hogg; Keith Earls, Sam Davies, Owen Farrell, Simon Zebo; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Jack McGrath, Ken Owens, Tadhg Furlong; Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes; CJ Stander, Kevin Gourdon, Louis Picamoles.

Irish Independent

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