Saturday 16 December 2017

The power of BOD almighty: Seven points for every game

Researchers work out rugby legend was worth extra seven points per game

Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll
BOD in numbers
Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll celebrates after defeating Italy in 2000
Brian O'Driscoll
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Finally, empirical proof of what we already knew.

Brian O'Driscoll's talismanic qualities on the pitch have been analysed by number crunchers at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) who confirmed the Irish team scored seven points per game by virtue of his presence alone.

Researchers at the economic think-tank have also concluded that his ability to both play and motivate team-mates was more valuable than home advantage.

And despite the doubters, BOD was as useful a presence on the pitch during the latter stages of his career as when he won his first cap.

'Worth a Try – A Statistical Analysis of Brian O'Driscoll's Contribution to the Irish Rugby Team' was carried out by researchers and rugby fans Pete Lunn and David Duffy.

The work was unfunded and completed in the authors' spare time, and modelled the impact Ireland's most capped player had on results.


The paper notes that when he took his first cap in 1999, he was noted for his "exceptional acceleration".

By the time he secured the last of his caps in March, against France, he relied on "passing and defensive intelligence".

In particular, it focused on games against frontline opposition. "By common consent, Brian O'Driscoll is one of Ireland's sporting greats," it says. "Measured in terms of caps, tries or trophies, his playing record is unsurpassed in the era of professional rugby.

"O'Driscoll was an automatic selection for games against frontline opposition for 15 years, during which he missed a proportion of matches through injury.

"We find O'Driscoll's presence was worth 6-7 points per game. We also find that he was particularly influential in close games, increasing the probability of victory by more than home advantage, both during the earlier and later parts of his career."

Researchers noted that more than one-third of Ireland's matches against the Six Nations and southern hemisphere teams were won or lost by less than seven points, meaning O'Driscoll's influence was a "massive contribution".

Researcher David Duffy said the work began after a newspaper article set out Ireland's win/loss ratio under O'Driscoll.

"We (Duffy and Lunn) both have an interest. We would have discussed the different matches over the years. We had said it would be nice to do something with rugby, and the other thing was we had talked about an article which outlined the win/loss ratio.

"Having gone to the matches and seen how BOD was always talking to players on the pitch, combined with the win/loss ratio and the fact he was retiring, we thought it would be interesting.

"Players can make contributions not solely captured by points. They can contribute to strategy, to defence, cleaning out rucks, running decoy lines. We're trying to make the point it's not clearly limited to points, it's whether he was playing or not.

"That's why we had the model where it's a win or a loss. He's statistically significant, and increases the possibility of winning.

"Essentially, O'Driscoll's presence on the pitch in terms of winning and losing is as significant as home advantage."

The models also looked at whether other players enjoyed a similar influence on the game during O'Driscoll's career.

Only players with 70 or more Irish caps, or those who had 40 or more caps but had been selected for the Lions, were assessed. The ESRI found that none enjoyed a similar influence as O'Driscoll.

The only other player closest to an "automatic selection" was Paul O'Connell, and he was worth around three points per game.

"The quantitative analysis we offer suggests the conclusion that Brian O'Driscoll stands out among his peers is well warranted," it concludes.

Irish Independent

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