Stat Attack

I have for some time been somewhat sceptical about the ‘Try Tracker’ statistics which pour out nonsense about what each team has to do to win an international.

When I say ‘somewhat sceptical’, I of course mean I take the piss a lot.

Before a match there is a load of bollox about how many metres (to two decimal points), offloads, rucks etc. that a side needs in order to win.

England’s 3-0 win in Australia would not have been predicted by the pre-match analysis from any algorithm used by any number of computers and is a reassurance that artificial intelligence is not yet ready to make us servile to robots – no matter what Stephen Hawking says!

In the second test – Australia made 5 times as many breaks, twice as many metres, beat three times as many defenders, won three times as many rucks and had twice as many offloads.

England also had less than 30% of both possession and territory and conceded more penalties –

Based on those stats even Bill Gates and Steve Jobs would have difficulty explaining how England won 23-7 – although Paul Gustard wouldn’t!

The pre-match ‘Try Tracker’ giant brain had suggested that to win –

‘The Wallabies must get 50% of the line breaks – they got 83%

Australia needed to make an extra 14 tackles between them – in fact this was to prove difficult as England only had the ball for 29% of the game.

Analysis by the coaches watching the game is what counts – hence the key early substitutions made in the series!

Games are won in selection and on the pitch not by some nerd sending  the coach an e-mail on the Friday – telling him that you have to stop their key player from running more than 10.436 metres per carry or that you need 6.678 turnovers in order to have a chance of winning. Try using that in a team talk!

It was really refreshing to read (from Peter Fitzsimmons in the Canberra Times) that Eddie Jones doesn’t hold with all the statistics rubbish.

At a breakfast interview last week, before he left Australia he talked mostly about the importance of picking players with the right character and then working them harder than the teams they were playing against.

No talk of red-zones, green-zones, black-zones. No gibberish about channels. No percentage plays.

Eddie finished by saying –

“You can make statistics do anything you like, and some coaches really believe in them, but I don’t. There are only two statistics we look at. Firstly, how long does it take a player to get up off the ground and get back in his place for defence. Secondly, how long it takes a player to get up off the ground and get back in his place for attack.”


Personally I think I’d rather listen to Eddie than a bloke with an i-pad.


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