Australia v Argentina - a critical analysis of our attack. - Green and Gold Rugby

Australia v Argentina – a critical analysis of our attack.

Australia v Argentina – a critical analysis of our attack.

The following is a range of statistics that shed some light on the Wallaby performance last night. To put the data into context I compare some metrics with the All Black’s performance against South Africa.

Both teams scored 16 points, even though Australia had 43 attack opportunities against New Zealand’s 37, so the ‘points per platform’ metric is easy to calculate:



Point per platform explained

Often teams play poorly, yet still win. Other times they lose while seemingly playing a great game. To better grade performance, we look at the amount of attack opportunities you create and how many points you score from them.

An opportunity is when you win the ball off a scrum, line-out or kick-off, or when you win a turnover or a penalty, and being able to score points when you have the opportunity is pretty much the whole point right?

Australia and New Zealand (as well as Argentina and South Africa) performed miserably this weekend. The coaches will say how they are ‘trying new things’, and we can further mitigate these results by virtue of the games having no consequence. Either way, yesterday’s games were of an extremely poor standard, and I know this because teams gave each other far too many platforms to play off. All teams had more than 32 attack platforms, while the average is 26.8 for the professional games I measured so far this season, many of which were Super Rugby games, which are for the most part carnivals, not tightly contested do-or die affairs.

Scoring off set-pieces

It takes Australia almost 3 attack platforms to score 1 point, while Argentina needs 4 platforms to score a point. South Africa and New Zealand requires a bit over 2 platforms to score 1 point. Think about this the next time your team trails by 14 points! Australia would require, based on yesterday’s performance, almost 37 platforms just to break even – as much as you rarely get in any game, leave alone tight test matches.


Opponent (1)

Australia handled the ball half as much per platform as the All Black’s did, and managed to set up less phases each time they could attack off set-pieces. Now we look at how we used our possession:

Opponent (3)

You may argue that our 15 handling errors (yes 15!) prevented us from getting more movement on the ball and more momentum. However New Zealand also made a crazy 13 handling errors.

  • Side note: during game 2 and 3 of Origin 2019, only 2 handling errors (1 forward pass and 1 knock on) occured in 160 minutes of rugby league. In 160 minutes of union yesterday, the 4 supposed southern superpowers made 43 handling errors.

We are playing route 1.

The data instead points to a team who is trying a very direct approach, seen clearest in the fact that we pass the ball roughly as many times as we carry it directly into contact. I am not sure that the strength of Australian rugby lies in a direct approach, but in fairness, we knocked on 5 balls in contact while on the verge of a line-break.

Our attack variation % is too low. Attack variation is the percentage the times we play wide instead of narrow ; or where we kick to regather the ball as opposed to kicking it to get out of trouble (or win territory). We kicked 19 times to gain territory, and only 5 times to regather possession. We used the maul only twice.

By contrast, the Crusaders kicked to regather possession on average 18 times a game this year. The All Blacks only did this 8 times yesterday, which is baffling. However of particular relevance is the fact that the Kiwi’s played to a man in the tram line (5 m line from the side-line) 16 times. We chose this option on 9 occasions. South Africa and Argentina managed this only 4 times each.

What do we need to see in Perth?

Looking purely at the data, we will need to find a myriad of ways to start converting opportunities into points. I want us to kick more and vary our kicks. We will need to be mindful of the All-Blacks newfound love of playing in the tramline. Our line-out functioned at 77% and our scrum at 100%. We turned over the ball on 7 occasions (knocking the ball on directly afterwards 3 times) and won enough penalties.

In short, we are creating enough platforms. What we do off first phase ball is going to define our World Cup campaign. Australia has long been known as an innovative rugby country, and the fact that we scored the most line-breaks for 2 consecutive weeks shows that we are not total idiots.

We have 2 weeks to get this right:

> More innovation off first phase

> More kick variation

> Better handling skills


Brendon Shields is the founder of @rugbycology – a company that uses Google tools to create user-friendly and affordable coaching solutions for rugby union clubs and schools.





  • Duncher

    Thanks for this, I quite like looking at these numbers even if they’re not terribly flattering for us

    • Love the data analysis as for me weight of numbers don’t lie….and at this point shows based on numbers to date we are in for a tough time against the All Blacks. In our head most of us knew that..but the numbers/data confirms that.

  • Anonymous bloke

    Good read. Crusaders kicking 18 times to regather per game seems v high. Is it possible to see their average total kicks per game?

    • Brendon Shields

      They kicked to regather 26 times against the Blues, and 42 times in total that game :-)

  • Nutta

    Cerebral rugby. Good gear. I cringe a little as it reinforces the group-speak we consistently hear from Camp Wobbly – “We created opportunities but did not convert them” – however I also take good note of the handling errors costing us the opportunities and particularly the comparison to the Heathens and their handling in what is a game specifically designed around manufacturing heavier tackle-collisions (bigger space to wind up, gang-tackle orientation etc). Watching the Wobbs bomb about 4 tries in 2 weeks off nothing more then poor handling is quite hard to take.

    • Keith Butler

      I found that comparison with league quite enlightening. Haven’t watched a game in donkeys years but I’ll now have to watch a couple just to see why they keep the error count so low.

      • Mica

        No threat of getting isolated and needing to push passes is an obvious one for the differences.
        Tidier ruck area and much simpler game are another two.
        Defence further back.
        No maul defence, no scrums (just a group hug after a knock on).

        • Keith Butler

          Nicely summed up. No need to push passes seems key to me. Cheers.

        • Nutta

          Not only no need to push it, but a decidedly negative attitude towards pushing the pass given possession is generally 83.333% assured. They could have almost invented the phrase “If it’s not on, it’s not on!” except … well let’s just leave that there.

        • Hoss

          Sure, but apart from that…………

      • Max Graham

        It’s a game where possession is almost guaranteed. There are no set pieces. A second row has the same basic role as a lock, 5/8 or centre. It’s closer to touch than to rugby. Knock yourself trying to learn its secrets though.

        • Mica

          Generic big, fast, can catch, can tackle or be small and strong/good technique, fast, elusive, can catch, can tackle. All need to be able to shovel a pass. bonus points for can pass/kick with distance/accuracy, but not really a requirement for about 75% of the team.
          Multiple tatts and sleaves or trouser leg tatts also seem to be a pre-req now too and a love of gambling

        • Max Graham

          League big men usually become backs in rugby. Most of the forwards are smallish. Paul Galen is about the same height as Genia. They are hard and do use space well; however all
          week to train and no scrums, line-outs, rucks, mauls…. Excellent neck tats though and aren’t held back by today’s PC bullsh*t to give their mrs a smack around the chops for looking at them the wrong way. League is good for entertaining bogans and keeping would-be-criminals off the streets, at least during their playing careers.

        • UTG

          Strangely enough, there was a a scrum won against the feed a couple of weeks ago. Agree, all very similar roles, I wish we would tap into some of their skills a bit more though. Some of their kicking skills are tremendous, particularly their torpedo bombs and their grubbers through the line. Good example of how to beat the rush defence as well.

    • From NooZealand

      I object, we are not Heathens.

  • Brisneyland Local

    Thanks Brendan, great read and welcome to GAGR.

  • Hoss


    Welcome to GAGR and a tip if i may (from one maths nerd to another)

    – 83.64% of people on here will not understand 48.62% of the data
    – of that 83.64%. 68.16% will be very confused and a further 14.25% of that 68.16% may incur a nose-bleed. 27.22% of that 14.25% of the 68.16% will apply an incorrect technique to said nosebleed resulting in carpet or floor staining equivalent to 1.32% of surface area
    – Generally 37.77% of those reading will be thinking of a former fullback and not paying attention therefore 100% distracted with 6.2% absorption of your case.On top 53.22% will consider themselves smarter than you and look for holes in enough % of your claim to rebuke your arguments. Even if only 2.85% of your data is less than 100% accurate, 94.72% will seek correction / argument.

    Apart from that – welcome and good read. 100% wont help us against the Nearlies, but like a good dietitian, at least we will know what goes into making us shit.

    • From NooZealand

      100% agree ha ha ha

    • Keith Butler

      99.99% pure genius. 0.01% crap.

      • Hoss

        Think u got that round wrong way.

        • laurence king

          Passed out, woke up in a pool of blood

    • Nutta

      I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

      • Hoss

        Briz told me you were a hobbit sympathiser.

      • laurence king

        Which I imagine would be hard to say when you’re 110, half tanked an at the end of a party, Bilbo

    • Brendon Shields

      That’s awesome thanks, I get it. Well, 98.57% of it!

      • Hoss

        That’s the spirit. You’ll do well here amongst the faithful.

        • Nutta

          You misspelled ‘cynical’ again.

        • Hoss

          I prefer ‘jaded optimist’

  • Interesting read.

    Can I just check, a platform by your definition is basically any time you gain possession of the ball by any means? So if you win possession of the ball by a scrum on your 5m line that’s as good a platform in your metric as winning a penalty on their 22?

    Not saying you can’t score from your 5m line of course, but I bet in those circumstances a lot of teams truck the ball up a bit and kick it into touch. From a penalty on their 22… I bet there are a lot more points scored. Probably more than 1 per platform, quite possibly more than 2, maybe more than 3.

    Interesting metric, but – and you probably can’t retrofit it – how does it change if you split it pretty simply into attacking platforms and defensive platforms. Do you gain possession in their half (attacking) or your half (defensive).

    Likewise, how do you define “play wide” rather than “play narrow” – is that a numbers thing? A distance of the pass thing? Is it the number of players skipped or the number on the back of the shirt? Play variation is an interesting number but with only two to compare, it’s not clear exactly what’s going on. How did SA and Argentina do? How did all four sides do the previous week?

    • Brendon Shields

      Hi Eloise, pardon me only getting back to you now.

      Yes, a platform is any time you have a chance to attack. I then break it down into 4 regions, so an attack in own 22 is fairly pointless, while an attack in their 50 is more poignant. Ditto fence.

      A wide play is any ball sent (via pass or kick) into the tramline. So you get the bullring (middle bit) and play to 15m (usually where #13 stands) and finally the tram line. So a wide play either reaches tramline or ball gets passed to the last player in the line.


I research schools and club sport to help coaches create better training sessions and smarter game plays based on science. I believe that data hides these coaching gems that are very rewarding if you are willing to mine deep enough! Yes it's nerdy, but it works!

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