Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Rugby Analyst - The surprising statistics behind England's Grand Slam

With guest writer - The Rugby Analyst - a Professional Rugby Analyst.

England have won the Grand Slam 6 months after the despair of their World Cup exit. The improvement has been nothing short of remarkable, interestingly there were 5 personnel changes to the team that started the final game against France in the 6 nations last year. One of the changes, a swap at loose head with Joe Marler dropping to the bench was purely due to the presumption he would receive a ban.

That leaves 4 changes, 1 being Danny Care a player who has been in and around the side for the past 5 years. Credit must be given to Eddie Jones for starting Care who’s try provided the cushion in the game to go on and win the slam. 

In this article we will look at the differences between the statistics of England in the 2016 and 2015 tournaments and how they compare to their rivals this year. Generally in rugby, coaches can gauge their work by using statistics as well as results to highlight improvements in certain areas. Across the board it is difficult to state that England have statistically improved under Jones. This in itself seems a ridiculous statement. What has certainly improved under Jones are the qualitative components which will be discussed later, but also a selection of key quantitive components in international rugby. 


The coaching team was constructed with a clear plan in mind, Paul Gustard was appointed to maintain and improve an already strong defence whilst Steve Borthwick had to sure up the set piece, leaving Jones to run the much vaunted attack. To the onlooker the attack felt a lot better in this years tournament, players played with “freedom and width” accruing to the media, with very little scrutiny placed on back line personnel once the tournament began. The best indicators of an attack are tries scored, clean breaks and defenders beaten. Below we look at the match average of each team, England 2015, England 2016, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

We must remember that the final game of last years tournament will have driven up the averages of all attacking statistics, which may exaggerate the difference between Jones England and 2015 England. However Wales and Ireland also posted huge numbers in their final games, yet 2015 England still topped the attacking statistics. This year England’s attack has not been as strong as their rivals. England have improved their ability to hold onto the ball, 2015 England were the worst of the home nations, they’re still behind Wales and Ireland but have closed the gap considerably. Cutting out errors not only improves the attack but doesn’t expose the team so often defensively, turnover ball gives opposition the chance to attack against a disorganised defence.