Spring tour stats part 1: Teams on attack

With nearly a month gone and the recent internationals just a memory I have calculated some stats that hopefully will give a better view on what teams do with the ball and how they defend.

The first two articles will look at the average of the teams, and who were the highest and lowest for each area. I will then take a few articles to go into more depth about how some of the top teams vary. In this article we will look at teams going forward.

Teams included in the figures are the 6 Nations and Rugby Championship teams plus Japan.

Overall game stats

The average score per try was 6.5 points. Japan was the highest on 7 points and South Africa the lowest on 6.2 points

We often see percentage figures on possession and territory but which teams can predict their score off either. I have taken the percent of the score in a game to see how they compare.

If a game finishes 24-26 the score percent would be 48-52 percent.

For Italy and Australia possession in a match reflects best what percent of the score they will get. Australia had 49.8 percent possession and had 50.2 percent of total points scored.

Argentina and England were more based on territory with Argentina getting 42.3 percent territory and 41.6 percent of the total score.

France, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Scotland (thanks to their game against Argentina) were higher than both possession and territory with Ireland having a 7.2 percent better score than territory, while South Africa had a 6.9 percent better score than possession.

Wales' Ross Moriarty (front, second left) looks dejected after the Guinness Six Nations match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff.  Picture date: Friday March 11, 2022. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

(Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Japan and Wales had a worse share of the total score than either their possession or territory would have suggested.

I have counted a movement every time the ball moves these are kicks passes and runs with ball in hand plus rucks, mauls, lineouts and scrums. I see each movement as a chance to change what a team is doing.

The average movements per game for a team was 364. New Zealand were first with 409 followed by Ireland on 407. Italy was lowest on 300 with Argentina second lowest on 317. This means that New Zealand has a 100 more chances to do something in a game than Italy.

Total rucks in a game were on average 150. Games involving New Zealand had the most rucks per game with 176 with Italy last on 126. A big surprise for some might be that South Africa were second lowest on 129. They averaged 72 rucks per game meaning the opposition only had 57 which may have been down to the fear of losing the ball at the ruck.

Ball in hand

Ball in hand is when a player is given the ball, what does he do with it, he can either kick it, run it or pass it. If he runs this may then lead to a ruck or the player passes later.

The average breakdown was 9.9 percent kicking, 51.6 percent passing and 38.6 percent running.

No surprise New Zealand kicked the least at 7.6 percent with Ireland second on 7.8 percent. At the other end Argentina kicked 14.8 percent of the time while France was second on 12.9 percent.

Japan passed the most with 57.4 percent and Ireland were second on 54.0 percent. For the sticky fingers France were lowest on 45.8 percent of the time with Argentina second lowest on 46.3 percent.

France were the highest runners on 41.3 percent with New Zealand second on 41.0 percent. Japan was the least likely to run on 33.3 percent with Italy second lowest on 36.0 percent.

This means for a team like France they are nearly as likely to run the ball as they are to pass it while Japan are nearly twice as likely to pass as they are to run.

Takuya Yamasawa (C)of Japan is congratulated by his teammates after scoring his side's first try during the international test match between Japan and New Zealand All Blacks at National Stadium on October 29, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

Running success

It’s one thing to run with the ball but what you do with it is important, some teams run when it’s not on and others run only when it is.

Average run was 3.74m per run with Ireland lowest on 2.83m and South Africa highest on 4.39 meters. 4 meters is often seen as the goal and Italy and Japan both low runners were both over 4m per run. France the most likely team to run were the only other team over 4m per run.

The average number of runs to make a line break was 29.6 runs. Italy was the lowest on 12.9 runs with Japan on 17.8 meaning they only run when they see a gap. Australia were the worst at finding gaps with 31.4 runs per break with Argentina second on 28.7 runs per break, it might be why their fans think the attack is poor.

The average number of tackles per offload was 29.7, like the number of runs per break, not sure if I need to investigate that or is it just coincidence.

France made an offload every 13.9 tackles, second was New Zealand and South Africa on 20 tackles per offload. Argentina was in a field of their own at 80.6 tackles per offload, if an Argentine is running, don’t worry about the ball, just tackle him.

The average runs per ruck formed was 1.29. Ireland made 1.38 runs per ruck while again Argeintina were last on 1.17, with less offload its only missed tackles that help Argentina.

(Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Contact with the opposition

We often look at the number of tackles and think lots of tackles means a good defense but not every tackle causes a ruck and not every tackle is completed. It’s also fine having the ball but how often do you give a turnover when you have the ball, if it’s high maybe you shouldn’t have the ball.

Average attempted tackles per ruck was 1.87. Italy was first with 1.98 attempted tackles to make Italy form a ruck, this may be why it seemed they were harder to stop. Wales were the easy catches on 1.76 attempted tackles per ruck. Australia was second worse with 1.78 attempted tackles per ruck.

The average number of ball movements per turnover was 31. Scotland racked up 39 movements per turn over with Australia second on 38.

So, Australia may have been easy to catch but harder to get the ball off and I think this might be why people thought their ruck work had improved. Japan was easiest at 24 with South Africa a surprise as third easiest with 28.

Set pieces

It’s fine to practice amazing set pieces off your scrum but it only works if you get enough scrums. Knowing what to plan a move off is probably half the battle in having a successful attack. Be it fast ruck balls or knowing how to run off the 8 or 9 at scrum could be more or less important to different teams.

The average team had 98 set pieces of which scrums were 6.2 percent, lineouts 13.8 percent and rucks 79.9 percent.

New Zealand had the most set pieces with 117 with Scotland second way back on 105. Italy had the lowest with 79 with Japan on 90, with South Africa and Argentina getting just 1 more each.

Wales had the most scrums at 8.3 percent but Argentina were the best at scrums with 100 percent success. Australia had the least scrums with 4.7 percent but England had the worse success with 59.3 percent, with their game against South Africa being at 42.9 percent success.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto

(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Italy had the most lineouts at 18.2 percent with France most successful at 94.7 percent. Japan had the fewest lineouts at 8.9 percent with Australia being the least successfully at 84.8 percent. Ireland interesting had the second highest in both areas with 17.0 percent for lineouts at a success rate of 92.5 percent.

Japan had the highest rucks at 85.9 percent with Argentina being the most successful at 97.3 percent. Argentina’s success at the ruck may go back to their slim chance of throwing an offload so support runners were really ruck cleaners. Italy had the least rucks at 75.4 percent with Scotland the least successful at 93.6 percent.

Italy took more attempted tackles to stop which might be why they had fewer rucks.

Bonus stats

This one is not going to be 100 percent but it is based roughly off the number of lineouts that resulted from kicks from hand. I know some penalties don’t result in a lineout, but it will be close enough to see what people do with their kicks.

The average team had 17.2 percent of their kicks from hand result in a lineout. Japan kicked the most with 31.8% of their kicks from hand resulting in lineouts, this may have been they were under a lot of pressure so more clearing kicks.

Second is Italy on 22.2 percent backing up the theory. England were 2.2 percent meaning they were very unlikely to kick it out but would rather find grass. Second lowest was Argentina which was a bit surprising.

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