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IRB Release Statistical Analysis Of Six Nations

IRB Release Statistical Analysis Of Six Nations

We all know that Ireland recently entered rugby’s record books as RBS 6 Nations champions for 2014, but how exactly did they do it? The IRB Game Analysis department have turned up some clues in their annual tournament review.

Click here to read the full Six Nations Statistical Review from the IRB.

Some of the most interesting data concerns the upturn in tries scored in the 2014 Six Nations, the influence of a strong defence, scrum and lineout and some of the main reasons why Ireland ended up lifting the title.

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There were 37 tries scored in the 2013 Six Nations, giving an average of 2.5 per match.
This was not only the lowest average in Six Nations history, but the lowest in the 18 years since the game went professional in 1995.

It was the continuation of a steady decline in try-scoring since 2000. This changed in 2014.

There were 61 tries scored in the 2014 Six Nations, producing an average of 4.1 tries per match – a level last reached in 2007.

The tournament proved once again that tries still remain the most significant element in winning matches. While penalty goals can have a major impact in parts of a match, matches are most often won by the team scoring the most tries.

In 2014, almost 75% were won by the team scoring the most tries, in three matches the try count was the same and in only one match did the team scoring the fewest number of tries win (Scotland v France).


A feature of the 2014 Six Nations was defence. Ireland conceded just two tries in their first four matches. while England conceded only two in their last four.

This contrasts with Scotland and Italy who, in total, conceded four times as many tries as Ireland and England.


An analysis of this year’s Six Nations scrums shows that:

– There was no reduction in the rate of collapse compared to 2013
– There was a small reduction in the rate of scrum resets
– There was a 20% reduction in the rate of scrum penalties and free-kicks
– The time taken for the completion of a scrum remained close to 60 seconds
– There were three free-kicks for crooked feeds in the 15 matches, compared to none in 2013

In examining scrums, research over several years has shown that not all teams produce similar
scrum profiles – when certain teams play there happen to be many more collapses, resets and
sanctions than in other teams’ matches.

This happened in both 2013 and 2014 where Wales headed the tables in both collapses and sanctions.

This year, for example, when Wales played there were 67% more collapses than when Italy played and almost three times more scrum penalties as Ireland’s matches.

In 2014, such figures were not distorted by certain exceptional matches. The high rate of collapse
and sanction occurred in all of Wales’ five matches. When matches involving Wales were excluded, the overall figures were much more positive.

In the 10 matches not involving Wales, there were 32% fewer collapses and half the number of penalties and free kicks.

In Ireland’s matches, scrums had more positive outcomes. In rounds 2 and 4, for example, the ball came back into play 22 times in 24 scrums. In Wales’ matches in rounds 2 and 4, it came back seven times in 21 scrums.

Welsh matches also contained a disproportionate percentage of pre-feed collapses. When Wales
matches were excluded, the ratio of pre-feed to post-feed collapses was 29 to 71. When included, the ratio moved to 43 to 57 indicating scrum engagement issues in Wales matches.

With such little scrum possession, it is not surprising that as a possession source of tries, scrums
are becoming less significant. Of the 61 tries scored in the 2014 Six Nations, scrum possession accounted for just 10 while lineouts accounted for 28.

This paucity of tries from scrum possession is not confined to the Six Nations. In the Rugby Championship last year 66 tries were scored, of which just five came from scrum possession.


– Ireland won four out of five matches, scoring 16 tries, an average of just over three tries per match

– 80% of tries were scored by backs and 20% by forwards. 46% of tries originated from lineout possession and 16% from scrum possession

– 30% of tries started from inside the scoring team’s own half. 69% of tries were preceded by three or fewer phases and 43% of tries by three or fewer passes

– Average ball in play time was 36 minutes and 57 seconds or 46%

– The most passes in a match was 359 (Ireland v Italy) and the least was 209 (Scotland v France)

– Ireland made 260 passes in the match against Italy, a number that exceeded those made by both teams in four of the 15 matches

– The most ruck/mauls in a match was 220 (Ireland v Italy) and the least was 145 (Wales v France)


Ireland won the Championship by a points difference of +10

– They scored the most tries and conceded the least. They had the best try-scoring rate and the best try conceding rate

– Ireland’s try-scoring rate was one try every 6 minutes and 41 seconds. Their try conceding rate was one try every 21 minutes and 14 seconds

– The majority of their points came from tries, with 16 tries and 10 penalty goals. They scored
six tries in the first half and 10 tries in the second half

– Three matches had a scoring margin of more than 20 points

– Their forwards scored five tries, which was more than any other team. The majority of their tries were scored from possession gained in the opposition 22-metre area

– Together with England, they obtained the highest proportion of possession. They had the highest passing rate and rucking rate

– Their forwards were the least likely in the tournament to pass the ball. Their back-three were least likely to kick possession

– They had the most successful lineout, winning 93% of their own ball and the most successful scrum, winning 89% of their own ball

– They were also successful on opposition scrum put-ins, gaining possession on 28% of occasions

– Ireland used the ball from scrums more than any other team

– They were the least penalised team and did not concede any yellow or red cards

– They had the highest success rate in their own rucks/mauls (97%) and the highest success rate in opponents’ rucks/mauls (7%). Wales were next best with 96% and 6%

Click here to read the full Six Nations Statistical Review from the IRB.