In a week where Eddie Jones told Danny Cipriani he needs to make headlines for performances instead of changing clubs, we attempt to gauge if Cipriani is as far off from the incumbent George Ford and Owen Farrell as Jones’ comments would imply.
Firstly it has to be stated unlike many positions statistics and external analysis do not necessarily provide conclusions on the performance of a fly half. Often individual elements of a number 10’s play are secondary to their ability to orchestrate team shape and game management.
Different teams adopt differing tactics however there are a few statistics that can be compared to provide evidence for Jones current thought process.
There is no hiding from the fact that in international rugby the ability to kick at goal is perhaps the most important skill for a fly half.
Sometimes another back will take the kicking tee, however most fly halves will feel it is their responsibility to kick. For example Wales have not been affected by Leigh Halfpenny’s injury because of the flawless kicking displays from Dan Biggar. England currently find themselves in a similar situation with Owen Farrell kicking at goal from inside centre.
Below we find the goal kicking percentage of the 3 players from this years Aviva Premiership.
This may be the area that Jones feels Cipriani needs to improve, his percentage from the tee is nowhere near the required standard. Farrell although operating at a lower percentage domestically than Ford has certainly proved that his goal kicking is world class.
Most fans want to see England adopt a more entertaining brand of rugby and perhaps Cipriani has long been seen as the one that got away after he burst on the scene. He certainly brings moments of magic but an in form Ford has shown deft touches in an England shirt and has a similar ability to bring others into the game. Where they may differ is their ability to threaten the defensive line with Ford perhaps lacking the explosive running skills of Cipriani.
Lets see if those assumptions are reflected by the attacking statistics in the Aviva Premiership, again all statistics are per minute played.
As you can see Ford and Cipriani certainly appear to offer more attacking prowess than Farrell, however Farrell has managed 6 clean breaks to 2 for Cipriani and 1 for Ford.
This is because Farrell attacks the line less often but when he does he surprises defences, he also supports on the inside after he has passed extremely well.
Traditionally fly halves are not the best defenders and therefore many teams attack around their channel on first phase. The “seam” between the back of a lineout and the 10 as first defender offers an enticing space for attack to either break the line or gain momentum over the gainline.
Some teams like to use a winger as this first defender to try and make a more dominant tackle. Danny Cipriani has certainly improved this area of his game as this graph shows.
To see the three players' equally surprising tackle success rate and read the article in full click here.