George Murray: Analysis data is a vital tool before and during games

Munster’s Donnacha Ryan wins possession in a lineout ahead of Alessandro Zanni of Treviso last weekend Photo: Sportsfile

George Murray

As a performance analysis team we tend to work at least ten days in advance to prepare for our opposition.

The work for our next game against Ospreys was delivered to the coaches last week. We are on a down week after 16 games in a row, but our next job is to start on the footage for the away game in Glasgow in two weeks' time.

The analysis department consists of Paul O'Brien, who is senior team assistant, Brian Fitzgerald, who works with the academy and with the senior team, and myself.

A key role for myself and Paul's is to prepare footage of the opposition for the coaches and players.

Essentially we cut down 20 hours of raw game-time into an opposition database of 40 or 50 minutes categorised into specific groupings, like attack and defence trends, zonal set-piece probability and individual attack threats.

Post game day, we code every individual player's action from the game, quality and quantity-wise.

We have developed a metric to measure a player's performance, but it's pretty intensive work: that coding could take anything up to eight hours.

On top of that we also produce game metrics, which also takes a few hours to code.

We produce all of those reports for the coaches and players within 24 hours of the game, this is key to evaluating our game performance against the standards we have set and what is required to win at the top level.

During the game we code statistically what's happening in the game. The coaching group will have picked out a few areas that are important drivers to our game and we will statistically present this live during the game.

That data is fed to the coaches' screens during the game so they can identify what areas are going well and what areas need addressing.

Statistics is one thing, but we also study the action through a close camera and wide camera view.

At any stoppage in the game we pull up footage that we feel relevant for the coaches: any changes in how the opposition has approached the game in attack or defence, defensive line-speed, injuries, or kick space for example.

Having that data on hand is now a key tool for the coaches to use both in preparation for games, and during the match itself.

Brian is a pretty busy guy in the department too, because he is responsible for the coding of every AIL game involving Munster clubs. Every academy and sub-academy player, as well as players that are performing well in the AIL have their performances coded by Brian every week.

Every Munster AIL club send us in their game footage and Brian spends Mondays working on that. All that footage is saved to the server and each week the senior coaches will have a look at that to see how the academy lads are performing. A lot of people don't realise that this work is being done, but it is a vital tool for the coaches to identify future talent and to assess their progress.

You definitely need a background and knowledge of rugby to work as a performance analyst. It would be very difficult to walk into any random sport and know how to do the detailed jobs without having the knowledge of the game.

Myself, Paul and Brian have all played rugby at a good level - I have coached and played at AIL, Paul has played at AIL level, and Brian has worked with Garryowen doing their analysis and also plays with their seconds side. We all have a key understanding of the game.

The ability to adapt and learn what your coaches want, how they view the game and how they evaluate is an integral part of building trust within the group and increasing the accuracy of how you do your job.

If you look at our coaching group, they have all grown up around these analysis tools. All the players that are in our group are very familiar with the work we do - they have been using analysis since their underage days at Munster rugby. Analysis has always been a key part of their preparation, so everyone is familiar with it now.

The drive to have that information is always there and continual learning is critical, but we certainly aim to get the balance right and not overload the players too much.

It's is vital that we don't overpower what got them there in the first place, which was their natural rugby skills.