Scotland must become rugby poachers

The Scots won 89 per cent of their lineouts and 16 per cent of opposition throws
The Scots won 89 per cent of their lineouts and 16 per cent of opposition throws
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EVERY four years the rugby world contests the Webb Ellis Cup and every four years World Rugby releases a statistical analysis of the competition. It is on their website, all 96 pages of it, so here are the edited highlights.

1 The 2015 Rugby World Cup was the most competitive tournament to date, with the lowest average winning margin 
of any previous tournament 
(22 points compared to 30 points at the 2011 tournament).

2 RWC15 saw the most competitive performances from tier-two teams, with two rankings upsets and the lowest average winning margin between tier-one and tier-two teams (31 points v 37 points in RWC11).

3 Southern hemisphere teams were more effective at scoring tries, accumulating 50 per cent more tries than penalty goals, while northern hemisphere teams scored 50 per cent more penalty goals than tries.

4 Tries continued to win matches and in more than 80 per cent of matches the team scoring the more tries won the match.

5 High-scoring defeats were dramatically reduced with 65 points the highest tally scored by a team in a match, making it just the 32nd-highest in RWC history.

6 Tries were back in fashion, with an average of five per match in the knockout stages and five tries in the final, the highest since RWC87.

7 Thirty per cent more tries were scored by tier-two teams against tier one teams in RWC15 than in RWC11.

Looking at trends in the game World Rugby duly noted that since RWC95 (the last of the amateur era) the number of scrums had more than halved while rucks had almost doubled, kicks reduced, passing increased (by about 30 per cent). Scrum-to-ruck ratio in RWC95 was 1:1, now it is 1:14. Tier-one scrums from Europe were almost twice as likely to collapse as scrums from the big four from south of the equator and Wales boasted the heaviest squad averaging 106kg. Ball in play time was up from 39 per cent in RWC99 to 44 per cent in RWC15 (the same figure as RWC07). But only a handful of games broke the 50 per cent barrier with the South Africa/Wales quarter-final the best of the bunch at 57 per cent. The shock is that fans paid top dollar for tickets to watch… well, nothing very much for 56 per cent of the time.

Scratching the surface of Scotland’s campaign is useful because the memory plays tricks. Scotland’s set scrum emerged with credit, but it was the most likely of any in the competition to collapse on its own feed and it lost five from 30 feeds. The Scots were poor when it came to attacking the opposition scrum, winning just one (of 20) opposition put ins, only Ireland were worse among tier-one nations, while Fiji were the most successful overall.

The Scots did well on discipline, second best behind Japan for getting on the right side of the penalty/free kick count but did not even attempt a drop goal. Scotland scored almost all their tries after the break, but conceded most in the first 40 while half of all World Cup tries originated at a lineout. The Scots won a respectable 89 per cent of their throws at the sidelines and an equally respectable 16 per cent of opposition throws although some way off Ireland’s 25 per cent success rate.

Restarts have been a major headache for Scotland coaches for some time now (remember Argentina in RWC11) and RWC15 was no exception. When they were kicking from the halfway line the Scots rarely restarted with a contestable one. When the Scots received the kick they secured just 10 from every 15 restarts (only Fiji and Romania were worse), poor figures compared to Ireland who topped the table with 10 from 11.

The other main area of concern is the breakdown. Scotland were good at securing their own ball, which they managed on 95 per cent of the time, but were pretty inept at poaching opposition ball which they managed just 4 per cent of the time. This put Scotland equal bottom of the table, alongside Georgia, Namibia and Japan. The Scots’ absence of a breakdown specialist in the back row hurt them and the absence of Alex Dunbar, the best “jackal” in the backs, exacerbated the problem.

Scotland are doing many things right but there is plenty to work on before England arrive at Murrayfield on 6 February with a new boss to impress and a point to prove.