Austin's TN6 Statistics and Review - Green and Gold Rugby
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Austin’s TN6 Statistics and Review

Austin’s TN6 Statistics and Review

The final Tri Nations game of 2011 between the Wallabies and All Blacks on Saturday was one of the most enjoyable games I’ve seen for a while.

Other recent games that spring to mind are the final Bledisloe Cup game in Hong Kong last year and the two games between the Reds and Crusaders in Super Rugby this year.  All four games I’ve mentioned were close affairs with fluctuations in fortunes as the teams battled to the very end.

A common thread in all of those games is the closeness of the contest on the scoreboard but it was the contest on the field that made this game a stand out for me.  The breakdown battle was ferocious, both teams controlled their attack for multiple phases through tight forward play when required and then showed their potency out wide when the time was right.  The All Blacks control through twenty seven phases leading up to Conrad Smith’s try was brilliant but the Wallabies defence and discipline not to give away a penalty in that sequence was equally good.

Whilst it may seem an obvious statement given that he set up the winning try, the difference between the two teams was Will Genia. In attack it wasn’t just the winning try or the one he scored himself – he was a constant threat and the uncertainty he created in the All Black’s defence opened up a number of other opportunities for the Wallabies. His defence was really good and a couple of tackles he made in cover were crucial in shutting down half breaks by the All Blacks.

One of the statistics that shows why the Wallabies were more competitive in this match is the kicking statistics.  In the four games the Wallabies have played in the 2011 Tri Nations they’ve kicked the ball 43% of the time they’ve had possession.  I’ve rated 72% of those kicks as good kicks.  The Wallabies opposition in those four games has kicked the ball 46% of the time they’ve had possession and I rated 65% of those kicks as good. 

In Saturday’s game the Wallabies again kicked 43% of the time they had possession and I rated 67% of those kicks as good so it was a kicking performance not unlike the average for the series.  The big difference is that in the Wallabies game against the All Blacks at Eden Park earlier in the season the Wallabies only kicked 30% of the times they had possession and I only rated 50% of their kicks that night as good. The Reds won the Super Rugby title this year on the back of the second highest amount of kicking in the competition and the quality of the kicking game from Will Genia and Quade Cooper.  Whilst I’m all for attacking rugby that isn’t necessarily limited to running the ball – a good kicking game is just as important, particularly in the pressure cooker atmosphere of the big games in a World Cup.

The other major difference in the statistics from this match is the numbers committed to the breakdown by the Wallabies.  In the three games before this one the Wallabies involvements in attacking breakdowns was 579 (an average of 193 per game) and 248 for defensive breakdowns (an average of 83 per game) – a ratio of 2.33 for attacking breakdown involvements over defensive breakdown involvements.  In this game the Wallabies involvements in attacking breakdowns was 234 (21% higher than the average for the previous three games) and in defensive breakdowns was 155 (87% higher than the average for the previous three games).  The ratio of attacking breakdown involvements to defensive breakdown involvements was only 1.50.

The most effective strategies in defence are usually at one end of the spectrum or the other – you either decide to let the opposition win their own ball by not committing numbers to the breakdown and instead fan out in defence or you decide to disrupt the opposition’s possession by committing numbers to the breakdown.  When teams go somewhere in between they’re usually less effective as in the heat of battle players often commit to the breakdown when they shouldn’t and vice versa.

When the Wallabies played the All Blacks at Eden Park last month their breakdown involvements in attack were 217 compared to 71 in defence – a ratio of 3.05.  The Wallabies clear change in strategy in this game by committing so many players in defence proved very successful.  Whilst I don’t measure the effectiveness of each breakdown involvement it was clear watching the game that the Wallabies were much more physical at the breakdown than they have been recently with Dan Vickerman, James Horwill and Stephen Moore leading the way.

In terms of individual performances the Involvement Rate of each Wallabies player is shown below.

Click on the icon in the column headings to sort the data.

Game MinsCarriesTotal Tackles MadeTotal Breakdown InvolvementsTotal InvolvementsInvolvement Rate
Sekope Kepu7531225400.53
Stephen Moore7581627510.68
Ben Alexander807835500.63
Dan Vickerman5331240551.04
James Horwill80111736640.80
Rocky Elsom7161531520.73
David Pocock8081856821.03
Radike Samo5981325460.78
Will Genia751371210.28
Quade Cooper801613200.25
Digby Ioane805113190.24
Pat McCabe805199330.41
Anthony Faingaa801929390.49
Adam Ashley-Cooper8071211300.38
Kurtley Beale801074210.26
Saia Faingaa5317112.20
Salesi Ma'afu5127102.00
Rob Simmons271413180.67
Ben McCalman214714251.19
Scott Higginbotham9210121.33
Luke Burgess51340.80

Of the starting team David Pocock and Dan Vickerman were best and Ben McCalman’s involvement in the last twenty minutes was good – exactly what’s required from a player coming off the bench.  Scott Higginbotham wasn’t on the field long enough for his Involvement Rate to be compared to others but again he did what you’d want a player off the bench to do. 

Radike Samo was fantastic whilst he was on the field but I thought he was left on for ten minutes too long.  If you watch the game again you can see how tired he was in that long possession sequence leading up to the Conrad Smith try and I think once that try was scored he should have been replaced.  It looks like he may only be able to go for 45-50 minutes at the pace he was working in the first half but there’s no doubt in my mind that he should be the Wallabies starting #8 during the World Cup.

James Horwill got through a mountain of work – he was the primary ball carrier for the team, made only one less tackle than Pocock and was heavily involved at the breakdown.  Rocky Elsom had a good game but there’s still improvement left in his game.  It looked like the change of captaincy actually lifted the performance of both players – Horwill lifting his game even further to lead from the front and Elsom freed up to focus on his game.

Anthony Faingaa, Pat McCabe and Adam Ashley-Cooper were good contributors in the backs with Faingaa and Ashley-Cooper topping the dominant tackle rate with 44% and 33% respectively.  Having two very similar players in McCabe and Faingaa in the centres reduces the Wallabies attacking impact but then again you can attack a lot more effectively through defence with that combination.  If I was making the selection decisions I’d leave the backline as it was and bring James O’Connor onto the bench for the Wallabies first game of the World Cup against Italy.

The old adage that games are won up front certainly applied in this game but so did that other adage – defence wins big games.  The Wallabies attempted 210 tackles in this game which was 23% higher than the average of their first three games in this series. They made 91% of their tackles, missing only 19 tackles, which was a strong performance.

The other pleasing aspect of the statistics was much better ball control with only 7 errors.

With the conclusion of the Tri Nations series I thought you might like to see the Involvement Rate of all the Wallabies over the four games they played in the series.

Click on the icon in the column headings to sort the data.

Game MinsCarriesTotal Tackles MadeTotal Breakdown InvolvementsTotal InvolvementsInvolvement Rate
Sekope Kepu31510371091560.50
Ben Alexander32022401231850.58
Salesi Ma'afu5127102.00
Pek Cowan912360.67
Stephen Moore2843747821660.58
Saia Faingaa365622330.92
Nathan Sharpe10481843690.66
James Horwill29646431061950.66
Rob Simmons16072763970.61
Dan Vickerman8041857790.99
Rocky Elsom28730411011720.60
David Pocock30525591712550.84
Ben McCalman157153042870.55
Scott Higginbotham117121349740.63
Matt Hodgson1587151.00
Radike Samo7981534570.72
Will Genia30054223790.26
Nick Phipps1523160.40
Luke Burgess51340.80
Quade Cooper3208515131130.35
Anthony Faingaa11731338540.46
Pat McCabe3202861331220.38
Adam Ashley-Cooper283223337920.33
Digby Ioane3204342201050.33
James O'Connor240262221690.29
Kurtley Beale3115523281060.34

Edit: I forgot to award “Man of the Stats” which would be Vickerman for this game. The candidates for the series – Pocock and McCabe – number 1 and 2 in numbers of dominant tackles – number 1 and 2 in number of tackles – both had 97% succesful tackle rate both only missing two tackles – Pocock’s breakdown involvements were way above McCabe as you’d expect and he was so far ahead of anyone else in this area I’ll go with Pocock for the series.

Click on the relevant icon below to download the Team Statistics or Player Statistics for this last game.




  • Apostle

    Wow, great stats. Looks like a lot of work went into that, so thanks Scott! Makes very interesting reading.

  • Pete

    I’ve been politely hating on Ben McCalman all season and I have to say I thought he pretty handy when he came on. Samo is clearly the 8 for the RWC but the number and identity of bench backrowers is worth watching.

    • Garry

      yes, It’s easier to look effective against tiring players. Perhaps that’s McCalmen’s best spot (until he’s better), as the bench impact player.

      Samo looked the goods from the get go, just needs match fitness. (Thanks again selectors)

    • Nipper

      Conversely, I’ve been questioning whether Samo was up to it at this level, and whether he could make it through 80 minutes of high-intensity test match. I love his style, and he obviously had been playing great in the S15, but I wasn’t sure about the step up.

      I was pleasantly surprised at his performance – fantastic! He also answered that, no, he’s not good for the full 80 – but perhaps McCalman is better suited off the bench.

      So, what happens if Palu comes back fit and ready? Who starts and who comes off the bench?

  • Who Needs Melon

    You know I am NOT picking on your stats here – I LOVE the stats and your article about their subjectivity. But those about the kicking percentages and ‘goodness’ are an example of where they really almost hide more than they show.

    I mean there’s a vast spectrum between good and bad, isn’t there? I remember there were a few GREAT Wallabies kick during the match. And a hell of a lot that must have been really borderline and had you umming and ahing as to whether they were good or bad.

    The great kicks and the bad ones can be real game changes though, can’t they? And there is often only a thin line between the two.

    I 100% agree with you though that ” a good kicking game is just as important, particularly in the pressure cooker atmosphere of the big games” and the Wallabies had a good kicking game this time around – MUCH better than in Auckland.

    • Scott Allen

      Yep – picking where to draw a line to measure is difficult – even if I selected more options for each statistic, there would still be some kicks / tackles etc that would fall between the categories

    • Garry

      Perhaps the effectiveness of a kick should be judged by the number of Gold guernseys chasing it?

  • Brumb

    Mccabe – played every minute & topped tackle count in TN (can’t recall too many missed tackles either)…feeling pretty confident with him locking down the IC channel.

    Suprised to see Genia’s involvment rate so low? bit of an anomaly there…especially with Ma’afu with the highest involvement rate…

    • Scott Allen

      Involvement Rate is influenced heavily by breakdown involvements – hence no halfback will ever really have a high rate.

      You would hope that your halfback and fullback are the lowest as you don’t want either having to make too many covering tackles or having to hit too many breakdowns – would be best if their Involvement rate considted almost entirley of carrying the ball – would mean the front line is doing their job well.

      Backs will always have a lower Involvement Rate than forwards – best comparison would be comparing the results for groups of players aginst players in the same group – front row – locks – back row – halves – centres – back three.

      • The Rant

        maybe you need a different system for backs, or an additional parameter like ‘passes’ or ‘attack involvements’ for those that handle the ball without getting credited for a ‘carry’.

  • Gax

    Scott you’re a champion. Fantastic stats. Really helps to understand what individual players are contributing.

    I just want to say i love this site. I didn’t know about it until it was recommended by Link in the SMH. It is great to be able to read insightful articles and join the comments with all the other rugby crazy fans out there. Keep up the incredible work G&GR and everyone else whose comments i love to read and get different perspectives.

    Welcome back Dan Vickerman!!!!

    • Bb of Brisbane

      Same – Just another reason to love Ewen

  • Ooaahh

    Quiet surprised by the overall stats of squeeky. He seems to be everywhere in the tests and has a blinder series but his overall work rate is lower than Rocky.

    • Scott Allen

      Thought Squeak had a great game and his numbers are the best of the front row but whilst your hooker is an extra backrower you’d hope your three starting backrowers could achieve better numbers than your hooker.

      I often miss a lot of Rocky involvements when I watch a game live and then find myself having to replay clips trying to identify who it was doing the work when recording the stats. He seems to be a little invisible these days and as I wrote in my Rocky aticle last week, it’s the lack of those flowing locks – he used to stand out from the crowd but not anymore!

  • I must say, some of those numbers do warm the heart.

  • Joe Mac

    The best article series on international rugby media, anywhere. Thanks Scott

    • Scott Allen

      Thanks greatly!

      • Dogman

        Yep. Just brilliant mate. So much thought has gone into how you analyse and present these stats, that it is easy for us “on-the-other-side-of-the-screen” to skim over it all and think “hey, what about this or that thing ya missed”. I love it, even if stats are the 3rd lie!

  • Razz

    2 most interesting points from the Stats for me:

    1. Vickermans involvement in the rucks – given the force he hits them at it was a testament that he was involved in so many. Its little wonder there were so many Black fwds limping

    2. The tackles and ruck involvements by our centres – they may not be as flashy as those around them but geez theyre busy. I dare say that if OConnor was playing IC as many have written, he would not be making 19 tackles at 100%.

    • Garry

      I don’t think we’ve seen the attacking potential of these two centres yet, esp. with Cooper, Fingers, and Diggers compatablilty. Time will see them gel.

      • The Rant

        agreed – we have not utilised front foor ball properly at all in the last few games and cooper keeps running at the line himself instead of sending one of our centres into the fray and then running the 2nd play as a general should.

  • AC

    JOC is simply too talented to leave off the field, though I think he would be more effective when some of the sting has gone out of the opposition. A solid defensive pairing in the centres early on and more attack-minded players later in the game (50+) seems a sensible policy.

    As an impact player JOC would wreak havoc around tired forwards. He could replace McCabe @ 12 after he has tackled himself to a standstill.

    Drew Mitchell, also great in attack and needing some match fitness, could also relieve Ant fingers around the 50 minute mark, with AAC shifting to 13 next to JOC.

    Might have been said before but I am salivating over the prospect of Samo (50) then Palu off the bench (30).

  • Barbarian

    Just add my voice to the chorus of thanks Scott. These are a brilliant series of articles and I have waited for each one with anticipation after every match.

    Who was your ‘Man of the Stats’ for Saturdays game? What about the whole 3N?

    • Scott Allen

      Forgot “Man of the Stats”

      Vickerman for this game.

      Candidates for the series – Pocock and McCabe – number 1 and 2 in numbers of dominant tackles – number 1 and 2 in number of tackles – both had 97% succesful tackle rate both only missing two tackles – Pocock’s breakdown involvements were way above McCabe as you’d expect and he was so far ahead of anyone else in this area I’ll go with Pocock for the series.

      • Ooaahh

        Scott on that I’m really curious why you think Pocock is not offensively using his hands in the ruck when last year given the same circumstances he would have. There was a glaring example late in the match the other night but it’s not the first of the series. Thoughts?

  • Dumbledore

    Outstanding work Scott, absolutely brilliant stuff. Unbelievable that there are clowns like Growden getting paid for writing the same old drivel week in, week out, while you can put something like this out. It’s much appreciated mate.

    Pococks work rate is unreal, particularly in that last Bledisloe. I’d love to see stats on McAwes involvement, he’s the only player in the world I can think of who might have a higher workrate than Pocock.

    • Scott Allen

      Sorry, couldn’t do stats for McCaw – he’s got that invisibility cloak remember!

  • Athilnaur

    Thanks Austin, been looking forward to your post.

    I know you aren’t asking me BarBar, but my vote is Pocock, his output has been huge game in game out.

  • “A solid defensive pairing in the centres early on and more attack-minded players later in the game (50+) seems a sensible policy.”

    Spot on, AC.

  • Athilnaur

    Dumbledore – fwiw, by Verusco data, which is usually pretty close to Austins, McCaw had 96 involvements to Pocock’s 84 in TN6. Not bad for someone who copped an injury early in the game, eh? His involvements have tended to be higher over the series.

    I don’t think you can read too much into it other than McCaw is clearly back in form and that both are huge for their teams. Different games, different sides, playing to diff agendas.

    • Dumbledore

      Cheers Ath, pretty much confirms what I thought.

  • hannibal

    I think we should track a new stat – the number of cheap shots (take a bow Quade).

    Cheap shot menu: knees in the head, shoves, trips, spitting, gouges, head butts, ear chomps, head pats, wet willies, bum thumbs etc. any other suggestions?

    Quade Cooper for competition leader (gets a triple score for avoiding suspension), ahead of Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams.

    • Ooaahh

      We all know Quade’s not the most mucho bloke out there, and his hits are worse than Pat Benatars so they’re not going to hurt to many people but I gotta say I love the fact that he niggles the shit out of the ABs. I

      • Hannibal

        @ Hannibal, time for you to take off the mask. Here you are masquereding as the average Joe and i suspect you might be Richie McCaw himself. Cooper was a one-time offender. During the Hong Kong Bledisloe, he was avenging McCaw’s trip on him.

        • Garry

          It might be MCCheat.

          Pat Benatar’s hits still get played on Auckland top 40 radio.


  • ozinz

    Great win boys!!!!!! Keep it up!!! We start from zero again for the RWC but bank that inspirational effort as a great POSITIVE that WE as ONE can defeat any team on our day, not just the ABS! also one thing I noticed which I have questioned regarding the place of MaCalman in the side was in the last ruck of the game…..Ive always thought Hes not abrasive or tough enough and is a passive player, seagulling I think is the term. In that last ruck I think maafu takes the ball in and MaCalamn just watches when he shpuld be flying in to protect the ball, untill thankfully Burgess forces him into the ruck by pushing him in….looked like schoolboy stuff…but its those little areas that will win or lose a game…..1. they could have lost the ball and the ABs countered and stolen the game and 2. he could have been penalised for going off his feet after being pushed in…I foud it funny but a weakness of MaCalman nevertheless…………bring in higginbotham beau robinson or palu :)

    • OJK

      I am not a massive MaCalman fan either after this 3N but I though he had a good impact on the weekend and was surprised to read your comment here, so I took another squiz at the replay…..and have to wonder out loud, what the hell kind of comment / criticism is this?? Have you seen the replay? MaCalman bounces up on his feet to reset for the next ruck and is then shoved forward ( off his feet ) by Burgess. “just watches when he should be flying in to protect the ball” ??? Take another look, he doesnt sit around and watch.
      Stop being such a hater, he had a very resourceful 21 mins off the bench, so give credit where it is due…..

      • Nipper

        There are a lot of McCalman haters out there – some of it deserved, much of it not.

        I suspect that it’s because his club jersey is blue, not red.

  • Camo

    Thanks Scott, super effort

    One of the main talking points at present is our centre pairing.

    The interesting stat for me on this is the massive number of breakdown involvements of Fingers! 29 involvemements which is over 3 times the number for any other back. In fact it is nearly as many as the entire backline combined!

    Rewatching the game I was also impressed with how effective these involvements were. Fingers flys into the breakdown at pace and is “Vickerman effective” in cleaning out. Personally I think this aspect of his game is equally important as his weapons grade defence.

    Retaining ball when we go to the outside backs is essential to the expansive style the WB’s are playing. So this is another substantial tick in Ant’s box.

    • RJ

      Bravo. He’s like having another openside out thier waiting to hit the breakdown. If Poey can give him a few ball scavenger tips i reckon he’s good for a couple of ball steals a game. His cleanout after one linebreak (cant remmeber which one) would make any forward blush. Kearnsey was loseing his shit after Ant came in flying and cleaned the fark out of someone (cant remember who). Mate im gonna have to go watch the replay again. 3 times obviously wasnt enough.

  • Bruwheresmycar

    Awesome stuff. It seems like a smart move to bring in Vickerman with this new focus on the breakdown. He is much more active at the breakdown than Sharpie.

  • Lee Grant

    Very interesting Scott. I’m not a great one for some of the stats that I come across but things like involvement stats over a large number of minutes in a series for players is an undeniable measure of activity.

    It doesn’t give the quality of the involvement, as you indicate, but it’s the next best thing.

    It was interesting to see the ratio of ruck commitments between attacking rucks and defending rucks. I thought we let the Kiwis get away with having too few committed on defence at Eden Park and played into their hands by not pick and driving enough to suck the Blacks in. We should have changed their ratio.

    The increased activity in defensive rucks at the weekend showed dividends. You just have to dip your lid to opponents who hold the ball 26 times and stretch you often enough to force a try, but otherwise it’s a good but exhausting activity. It’s probably a horses for courses thing.

    Interesting comments also about Genia at Suncorp: the drive of our forwards forced more Blacks to attend to the ruck and allowed him to do what he couldn’t do much of in the 1st Bledisloe on the fringes.

    I didn’t realise that the Wallabies kicked so infrequently at Eden Park; so there is a lesson there, isn’t there? I wasn’t surprised that the quality was lower because kicking under pressure is not ideal compared to kicking when you want to.

    The series figures show a general grouping of each “row” of the forwards. Somehow I expected more involvement from the front rowers as a group but it doesn’t make sense if you think about it.

    Before he left to go overseas I always knew that Vickerman had heavy impact at the breakdown but didn’t remember his involvements being so high, per minute. I helps when you play less than an hour – but still. These are the type of things the Wallabies clip board guys look at; so Vickers is looking a lot better as the starting lock with Horwill in the big RWC games than I ever thought he would when he had his first run in the last Tahs home game this year.

    Good stuff Scott – keep them coming.

  • madfifteen

    I see Vick’s value everybody’s talking about now. I’ll have to take back my preference for Sharpie over Vick, I mentioned earlier.

    Ant’s added value is that he can get up on his feet quick and work on the breakdown even before Pocock gets to it. He has 29 breakdown involvements, that’s amazing, more than Samo, Kepu or Moore. Leave him or take him, it’ll be a tough decision to make…

  • Rog

    61 tackles…mccabe and pocock are beasts

  • MJ

    One tackle to QC that entire game. Pathetic. I didn’t realize that kneeing an opponent while he’s on the ground counted as a tackle.

  • KangaDingo

    Great article
    Good work
    Well written.

  • wobbly

    Really good stats and analysis guys.

    Two things stand out for me:

    1. The Wallabies improvement in Bled 2 was in dominant tackles (again more first man low dominant tackles), effective kicking game and numbers, timing and aggression at the breakdown. These are two fundamentals Deans must cement for the RWC campaign. The Bled 2 starting XV are obviously capable of delivering that and we have the likes of TPN, Palu and Barnes to potentially strenghten us in those critical areas, even if only off the bench. (Barnes kicking and tackling, the other two monsters in tackling and breakdown)

    2. Bench management: For the first time Deans went with a 22 man game plan. Bench management has been a consistent criticism levelled at Deans. He finally addressed this via the necessity of Samo and Vickerman’s limited match fitness. The successful use of impact players has been the key to the 3N win and it needs to be central to our RWC plans. From Samo 50-60 min > Paul, McCalman or Higgenbotham; Vickerman 50-60min > Sharpe or Simmons; Slipper to start > Alexander to close; Moore > TPN or v.v. with TPN to devastate from the kick-off and be replaced whenever he’s buggered. A 5-2 bench split with Higgers most obvious held in spare for last quarter injuries is essential. With so much backline versatility it makes sense.

    I also hope McCabe and A Faingaa are retained as midfield pair. Their workrate and defensive effectiveness numbers are through the roof. Incredibly valuable to have a virtual second flanker at OC. Watch the replay and count how many times we secured wide ball possession compared to previous tests. These guys give the backline it’s balance, adding starch, straightness and leaving the razzle-dazzle, line-breaking and finishing to Cooper, Beale, Ioane and either JOC, Mitchell or AAC.

    With McCabe’s honest performances its unlikely Barnes has an opportunity to win back 12, but his kicking (general and goal) is a pretty handy plan B to bring off the bench. Again there is so much versatility in that backline that we could live with an outside back replacement. Just not sure who to drop.

  • Mart

    Just enjoying watching replays of the start after the Haka.
    What a stare down by the wallabies!!
    Love the look on the faces of Vickerman, Rocky etc..”is that it” “your gonna cop it”
    And then the look of insecurity by the All black “what the fek, they’re still standing there”

    • Razz

      Speaking of the Haka, can someone please tell Ali Williams that:

      1. He is not Maori so just take it back a few notches
      2. He looks like a complete muppet
      3. He is on the bench
      4. He looks like a complete muppet

      He reminds me of Vanilla Ice rapping.

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All Blacks

Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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