Sport Rugby World Cup

Sunday 19 May 2019

In-depth statistical breakdown of the Rugby World Cup reveals interesting trends

Italy's Sergio Parisse is tackled by Jamie Heaslip during yesterday's Pool D clash at the Olympic Stadium GETTY IMAGES
Italy's Sergio Parisse is tackled by Jamie Heaslip during yesterday's Pool D clash at the Olympic Stadium GETTY IMAGES

Dr Mick Kerrigan

As the dust settles on the pool stage of the Rugby World Cup, we have examined the performance of each of the teams.

Unlike American sports, rugby stats are usually confined to kick success, possession and territory. We have delved deep into the data to try to understand how teams made it out of their respective pools.

Make Your Tackles

Miss a tackle and your opponents are quickly on the front foot. Eight of the nine top teams with the highest tackle success rate made it out of their pool.

Ireland top the list with a 91% success rate, missing only 42 tackles in their four games. Joe Schmidt and Ireland will go into their quarterfinal confident that Argentina have been leaky in defence, missing 24pc of their attempted tackles, and have focused on their offence to get their wins.

2015-10-05_spo_13438474_I2.JPG
Italy's Sergio Parisse is tackled by Jamie Heaslip during yesterday's Pool D clash at the Olympic Stadium GETTY IMAGES

A solid Irish defence against a leaky Argentinian defence could be the difference.

 Tackles AttemptedTackles MissedTackle Success
Ireland (Q)4584291%
South Africa (Q)4644890%
Scotland (Q)5856988%
New Zealand (Q)3524288%
France (Q)4966786%
Australia (Q)4836786%
Italy5698186%
Wales (Q)4366585%
England3925985%
Georgia5127985%
Canada4827884%
Japan4919281%
Samoa52710380%
USA4989980%
Romania4459479%
Fiji4279478%
Argentina (Q)43610576%
Tonga3048373%
Uruguay47413172%
Namibia51416867%

 

Get over the Gain Line

The best teams carry well and get over the gain line to create mayhem in their opponents defensive systems.

Japan lead the four pool topping nations in getting over the gain line with their carries, showing just how well they performed and how unlucky they were to not get out of Pool B.

Ayuma Goromaru
Japan's Ayumu Goromaru

At the other end of the table England and Scotland are not in good company, shedding some light on why England are out and why Scotland must do better if they are to get past Australia in the quarter-finals. 

 CarriesMeters Made% Carries over Gain Line
Japan521143748.2%
South Africa (Q)536211547.8%
Ireland (Q)593211647.4%
Australia (Q)378167643.1%
New Zealand (Q)530234543.0%
Argentina (Q)534268742.5%
Samoa427163341.7%
Wales (Q)459173741.4%
Tonga554176941.3%
Canada484192541.1%
France (Q)425170140.9%
Romania388103040.5%
USA429137340.3%
Uruguay36092638.6%
Italy378135037.8%
England528210836.7%
Scotland (Q)408127835.5%
Namibia25893835.3%
Georgia356117434.8%
Fiji429173132.4%

 

Offload at your own risk

Some of the most exciting rugby in the pool stage has come from Tier-Two nations offloading in the tackle to create opportunities.

Looking at the frequency with which each team offloads while carrying, we can see that while this might be exciting to watch, the risk may outweigh the reward.

The teams that are clustered around the middle of the table seem to have found the right balance of risk-reward, knowing when to offload and when to go to ground. The conservative nature of Ireland's offloading game is there for all to see, they prop up the bottom of the table with only 17 offloads in four games.

 CarriesOffloads% Offloads per Carry
Samoa4274410.30%
Georgia3563610.11%
Fiji429419.56%
Argentina (Q)534509.36%
Tonga554478.48%
Italy378328.47%
Namibia258218.14%
New Zealand (Q)530438.11%
Uruguay360267.22%
Scotland (Q)408286.86%
England528346.44%
France (Q)425266.12%
Australia (Q)378236.08%
South Africa (Q)536315.78%
Romania388194.90%
Canada484234.75%
Wales (Q)459214.58%
Japan521234.41%
USA429163.73%
Ireland (Q)593172.87%

 

Different Approaches to Kicking

There is a real variety in how the different teams have used kicks to good effect in the pool stage and different kicking styles seem to be able to equally get you out of your pool.

Teams at the top of the table, like Argentina, kick less frequently but make more meters on average from the kicks they make. Ireland are the most prodigious kickers of the tournament but make the least amount of meters per kick, as they attempt to utilise our often-heralded GAA skills to retain our own kicks.

Ireland have kicked 58pc more than Argentina yet their total kicked distance is 15pc less. How these radically different styles interact next Sunday should make for a fascinating contest.

 Kicks from HandKicks from Hand MetresAvg. Metres made from Kicks from Hand
Argentina (Q)100168316.83
France (Q)117192916.49
Australia (Q)114184616.19
Canada105163715.59
Scotland (Q)116174115.01
Tonga96139514.53
Italy130185814.29
Japan101143014.16
Samoa98138414.12
Fiji131180713.79
Wales (Q)136186313.70
New Zealand (Q)111148613.39
Uruguay117152513.03
Romania135172612.79
South Africa (Q)148186612.61
Georgia143179312.54
Namibia110135812.35
USA119145712.24
England144162911.31
Ireland (Q)15814349.08

 

Keep Your Discipline

Conceding penalties at crucial times reduces the pressure on your opponents when you are in attack and coughs up point-scoring opportunities when you are in defence.

JG.jpg
Jerome Garces will referee Ireland's Rugby World Cup quarter-final with Argentina.

Japan, New Zealand, Argentina, and Scotland lead the discipline table with under 40 penalties conceded in their pool campaigns and the majority of the qualifiers from the pools are in the top half of the table. Wales with the third worst discipline record are all the way down at the bottom of the table, but critically they have committed over 60pc of their infringements outside their own half.

As we get to the business end of the tournament, teams like Australia, South Africa and France will have clean up their game if they are not going to hand over too many kickable penalties to their opponents.

 Penalties ConcededPenalties Conceded Own Half% Penalites Conceeded in Own Half
Japan311961%
New Zealand (Q)371951%
Argentina (Q)392256%
Scotland (Q)392564%
Romania402255%
Ireland (Q)421945%
England442659%
Australia (Q)443273%
Italy451840%
Tonga462043%
Fiji462759%
France (Q)492347%
South Africa (Q)492857%
Canada503264%
Georgia512651%
Namibia513467%
USA523160%
Wales (Q)562239%
Uruguay583764%
Samoa593661%

 

Conclusion

Teams have succeeded in getting to the quarter-finals playing with different styles. This is epitomised by Argentina who have missed over a hundred tackles, but have carried, offloaded, and kicked long with the best of them, and Ireland who have been the leaders defensively, offloaded the least, and kicked short with the aim of retaining possession.

New Zealand and Australia should not be forgotten; while they don’t top any of the tables they have performed well across the board.

The quarter-finals will see some of the big teams finally clash swords. The big question is whether the injuries in the France match will enable Ireland to keep playing their own brand of rugby at the same standard or will Joe Schmidt have to pull a different rabbit out of the hat. 

Online Editors

The Left Wing - Where Leinster went wrong, Saracens power and looking ahead to RDS showdown

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport