What can the stats tell us about the potential outcome of the Rugby World Cup final?
Although there are infinite intangibles that can not be accounted for in a game of this magnitude, the statistics accrued by New Zealand and Australia over the last six matches make for interesting reading.
A cursory glance at the numbers tells us that the defending champions are by far the more efficient and prolific attacking unit. They top the tournament for points scored with 256 (avg. of 42.67 per game) over six matches, with Australia at fourth overall with 205 (avg. of 34.1 per game).
The Kiwis have also amassed the most tries, having dotted down 36 times (avg. 6 per game); nine more than nearest rivals Argentina, which leaves the Wallabies’ collection of 26 (avg. of 4.33 per game) appearing comparatively paltry.
Dan Carter’s boot has accounted for 63 points, the most of any All Black, and behind the fly-half is the freakish Julian Savea, who has crossed for eight tries; a tournament-high tally. Fellow winger Nehe Milner-Skudder has got over the whitewash on 5 occasions.
Aussie out-half Bernard Foley has racked up 75 points, with all but 10 coming from the tee, and Adam Ashley Cooper and Drew Mitchell have contributed 4 tries apiece.
New Zealand make an average of 577.33 metres and cross the gain-line with 68% of their carries. Number eight Kieran Reed has made it over the gain-line 31 times.
Again, the figures do not make pleasant reading for Cheika and co; they make 396.50 metres per match, while getting over the invisible threshold at a rate of 59%. No Australian appears in the top 20 for players getting over the advantage line. In total, Hansen’s offense has got over the gain line 325 times to Australia’s 253.
The champions have made 61 clean breaks to the challengers 46. In the same order, the offload totals are 53 to 35.
Steve Hansen’s men make an average of 91.83 tackles per game, and have missed a mean of 10.93 tackles over the six games of the competition. Take from this what you will, but no New Zealander makes into the top 20 of most tackles made; a category dominated by South Africa’s forwards.
As they showed when down to 13 men against Wales, the Aussies have a cohesive and obdurate defensive system. They have amassed an average of 121 tackles in each match, however, they have missed a mean 18.33.
Not exactly a confidence inspiring number when considering their opponents’ offensive prowess. In the personal stakes, Kane Douglas and Scott Fardy have chipped in with 58 and 55 successful hits respectively.
To round off, Australia have made 726 tackles to their counterparts 551.
Despite David Pocock’s incredible personal tally of 14 turnovers, which is six more than nearest competitor Kieran Reed, as a collective, the All Blacks have pilfered more ball. On 45 occasions they have turned over possession, three more than their rivals.
With that being said, the Australian number eight is the best in the business at the moment and, when he and Michael Hooper packed down together in same back row for the first time at this year’s Rugby Championship, Australia ended a winless streak against the Kiwis going back to 2011. Can they repeat the feat?
The revamped Australian scrum has been one of the revelations of the tournament, and an area none of their six opponents to date have enjoyed a prolonged dominance. A high functioning drive can inspire confidence, yield penalties and keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Australia have enjoyed success on 89% of their own put-ins and lost an average of 0.67 per game. They concede an average of 2.17 penalties in the scrum.
Yet, for all the improvements made by Mario Ledesma, the Men in Black come out on top again; a 97% favourable outcome on their put-ins, with a loss of 0.17. The penalty count is an exact 2.00.
Not one of New Zealand’s line outs have been crooked, though Australia are pretty pristine with just 0.17 of their darts going awry.
The Wallabies have won 73 line outs, while the Kiwis have managed 70. The All Blacks have stolen more line outs than anyone else with 14, which is six more than their third placed opposition.
Kieran Reed, surprise, surprise, has poached a completion best of six of opponents' throws. Brodie Retallick has notched up five, Australia’s Dean Mumm has four, with teammate Rob Simmons robbing three.
Neither side has had a player sent off, and each have had four in the sin bin thus far. Australia have scored 15 penalties, which over twice that of New Zealand’s seven. The former concede 10.33 penalties per match to the latters’ 10.00.
Over half of those Kiwi discipline slip ups come inside their own half, which is a potential 15 points for Foley. Comparatively, 7.55 of the pretenders’ indiscretions are inside their portion of the pitch. Nobody should be handing Dan Carter a possible 21 points.