RWC Ruck Analysis: AUS v ENG - Green and Gold Rugby

RWC Ruck Analysis: AUS v ENG

RWC Ruck Analysis: AUS v ENG

Stepping Up at the Breakdown

Much has been written about the Wallaby victory over England.

If this game sets the tone of the RWC then buckle your seatbelts as were in for some ride over the next 4 weeks.

The stats show that England was ahead in some areas:

  • They had a better running game – 391 m compared to our 254m. More Clean Breaks, Defenders Beaten and Offload;
  • They missed fewer tackles – 101/15 versus 116/18; and
  • Slightly better Lineout – 7/1 (87%) versus 11/2 (85%).

But the Wallabies:

  • Made more of their Possession (51%) and Territory (53%);
  • Won more rucks 81 from 84 (96%) versus 77 from 84 (92%);
  • Conceded fewer Turnovers – 10 versus 17.
  • Conceded fewer penalties – 5 versus 9 – nil Yellow Cards; and
  • Turned a scrum, over which there was a question mark on the big stage into one of dominance – even after bench replacements.

Both sides showed good line speed but the Wallabies maintained this pressure throughout the entire game.

The Wallaby effort at the breakdown was maintained over the full 80 minutes, with a significant lift in involvement from the Front Row.  Whereas the Front Row had been contributing 25-28% of Total Ruck involvements, against England this was lifted to 35%.  In addition, the Front Row lifted their tackle count with big contributions from Moore (11/0) and Sio (9/0).

England was scrambling in defence but particularly at the breakdown where their Backs had to contribute 40% of their team’s Defensive Ruck involvements and 28% of Total Ruck involvements.  By comparison, the Wallaby Backs could rely on their Forwards to do the hard work making only 16% of Def. Rucks and 22% of Total Ruck involvements.

Ruck Involvements

Eng v AUS


Oz v Eng

  1. England Forwards had 85% of the Total Ruck involvements but only 51% of the Defensive Ruck involvements of the Wallaby Forwards.
  2. England was generally standing off on Defensive Rucks – which made up only 18% of their Total Ruck involvements.
  3. Robshaw, Wood, Cole and Vunipola were most involved in putting pressure on the Australian ball.
  4. Both sets of Locks were strongly supporting their own ball carriers.
  5. Significant ruck contributions from strongly defensive Centre pairings.   Giteau and Barritt very evenly matched.   Joseph made 11 rucks.
  6. The Australian Forwards maintained about the same level of involvement in defensive Rucks as they had shown against Fiji (32%).
  7. Pocock, Hooper, Fardy and Moore were most involved in putting pressure on the England ball.
  8. Pocock’s clear priority was to put pressure on the England ball carriers and gained 3 Turnovers from his 20 Defensive Rucks.
  9. Pocock’s Total Ruck involvement was 15% below what he averaged in TRC tests and nearly 30% below his game against Fiji.
  10. Hooper’s priority was clearly to work with Douglas, Simmons, Kepu and Sio in supporting the Australian ball carriers. Hooper earned 1 Turnover from his 9 Defensive Rucks.
  11. Hooper’s Total Ruck involvement (34) was 25% better than he averaged in TRC tests and a 70% improvement over his game against Fiji.
  12. Fardy’s Ruck involvement is consistently at or above this level.
  13. Moore’s Ruck Involvement returned to his average in TRC tests and a 50% improvement over his game against Fiji.
  14. All Bench Forwards showed strong Ruck Involvement which helped stifle England’s efforts in the last 20 minutes.




  1. The 10-minute breakdowns help show individual and group contributions at various stages of the match.
  2. The England Forwards lifted their Ruck Involvements by nearly 20% in the 2nd
  3. The Australian Forwards put in big efforts for the 1st 20 minutes, immediately after half-time and in the 60-70 min period after England had worked their way back on the scoreboard. Holmes and Slipper provided great support off the bench.
  4. England bench players did not provide the same lift in Ruck involvements.
  5. Commendable efforts by Robshaw, Wood, Purling and Launch bury during England’s fight back.
  6. Turnovers were earned by Wood (2), Launch bury (1) and Morgan (1).

Front Row Contribution

For some time now I have been highlighting that the Wallaby Front row has been contributing much less Ruck Involvement (generally 25-28% of Total ruck involvements) than that in other top-tier teams (generally 35-40% of Total ruck involvements)

In this Test, the England Front Row maintained their involvement at 34% of the reduced Total ruck involvement by the England Forwards.

The Australian Front Row lifted their contribution to 34% of Total ruck involvements by the Forwards in an increased number of Total ruck involvements by the Australian Forwards (242).  By comparison, against Fiji the Front Row contributed only 27% of the Total Ruck involvements by the Australian Forwards (185).

In my view, this level of Front Row Ruck involvement is required for the Wallabies to compete with other top tier nations at the RWC.

Defensive Ruck Involvement

Over the past 12 months there has been a significant variation in the amount of involvement that the Australian Forwards have in Defensive Rucks (shown as a % of Total Rucks).

The data below shows that under McKenzie, the involvement was as high as 50% (against Bokkes and Pumas in 2014) but now varies according to the game plan and opposition.

Def Ruck


There is clearly no direct correlation between this % and the final result.

However, in our 3 games in the RWC to date the Wallabies have shown that they can put consistent pressure on the stronger team’s ball at the breakdown, and earn turnovers without being penalised off the park as has happened in the past.

Of particular note is the very low 7% Defensive Ruck involvement against England last year.  If you remember it was  a difficult game to watch.  But Saturday’s win more than makes up for it!!

It is worth noting the effort of David Pocock who in 2 games has earned 8 Turn Overs Won from 40 Defensive Ruck involvements while averaging only 1 Penalty/game.  An impressive 1TOW/5DRI.

I’m very interested to see what the strategy will be against Wales on Saturday.

My tip is for sustained ruck input from the Front Row at this higher level and Defensive Ruck involvements at close to 30% and a WIN to finish top of our pool.

  • onlinesideline

    Kane Douglas !

    • Patrick

      And Greg Holmes – massive off the bench input in addition to his scrummaging

  • this is a great bit of analysis mate, really top notch.

  • Pfitzy

    The other side of the stats is that our tight five got lots of defensive ruck involvement due to England’s very narrow attack pattern. Still, watching Kane Douglas smash blokes is a spectator sport within itself.

    • Tah fan

      Was amazed to see simmons strong in them too. I’ll eat my words now

      • Simon

        He’s picked up his running game too. I don’t know what Cheika is doing to get Horwill (in the RC) and Simmons both playing like they should in phase play, but whatever it is it’s worked.

        • Who?

          I’d argue it’s the same thing he’s doing with Douglas… Because Douglas is playing better this RWC than he ever did under Deans or Link. Well done Cheik.

        • Simon

          Maybe it’s as simple as workrate being directly correlated with morale. I’ve mentioned previously that I think one major reason for the poor performance of the Reds (what turns them for a not so good side into a terrible side) is low morale which just hasn’t motivated guys like Kev to put in that extra effort around the park for 80 minutes. But Cheika has built an aura of self-belief around the team and maybe that’s just reflected in guys like these locks stepping up to the plate and going the extra mile. Good coaching is starting the job, good morale is finishing it.

        • Who?

          Sometimes it can also be finding that last bit of aggression. There’s two kids in my junior team who are beasts when they’re angry, and pussy cats when they’re not. One is easy to get fired up, the other one… Not so much. The coach actually had a rough time this year trying to get him fired up, and offended one of the boy’s parents. Sometimes coaches click really easily with a player, sometimes they don’t. Can’t help but wonder if that’s true in a few instances with Cheika.
          Though I do agree with your statements about morale – anyone coming from the Reds to the Wallabies was always going to step up, because of the better culture and belief in the coaching staff.

  • david rintoul

    You can see why Coach likes douglas, it was the same in the last match too.

    • Bernardo Faria

      True. I’m sold on Douglas now.

  • harro

    Love reading your analysis. Thanks for the effort you put in. Were Pocock (3) and Hooper (1) the only Aussies to force turnovers?

    • Michael Hassall

      Fardy was able to in one turnover in the first half after 2or 3 English forwards cleaned pocock out.

    • ForceFan

      Aussies earning Turnovers were: Kuridrani 1, Foley 1, Fardy 1, Hooper 1, Pocock 3, Mumm 1.

  • Brisneyland Local

    Forcefan, this is the bomb! The absolute schizzle. Keep it up! The statistical analysis certainly changes the potential pre-concieved bias that we all have as humans!

  • Idiot savant

    Thank you Force Fan. I appreciate good statistics and analysis.

    Watching the game I thought Douglas was outstanding and these stats back it up. I was circumspect about him because of his armchair ride into the side but he repaid the faith. I am now a believer! And it wasn’t the rucks that convinced me. It was his overall work rate including tackles and carries. He played like a kiwi.

    • Avid

      .. played like a Tah actually ; ).

      • idiot savant

        But we won the set pieces…

        • Avid

          .. yep, and was key to Tahs Super title.

        • idiot savant

          I should dispense with the irony then?

        • Avid

          … the suspense got me – do tell.

        • idiot savant

          It was a very lame joke. The Tahs deservedly won the Super title and earned their finals appearance this year but they did it without dominating the set piece.

        • Who?

          I didn’t think it was lame…
          But it does show a significant change in approach from Cheika between S15 and Tests. S15 he won without a functioning lineout (it only had a form of function when Dennis was there, and he was injured for the finals), and with the weakest Tahs scrum in a good number of years. One EOYT later, and he’s hiring scrum doctors from Argentina, leading to a change in mentality that would see England smashed at Twickers. A great sign of Cheika’s adaptability.

        • Avid

          I thought the Tahs scrum improved under Ledesma this year. Douglas’s presence was definately missed.
          Obviously if Aus lineouts can go the same way as our scrum, we’d be complete.

  • Avid

    Interesting breakdown analysis, thanks Forcefan!
    How will McMahon compare iso Hooper, and can he (or Toomua) take Hoopers role of smashing oppo centres ?

  • Seb V

    Douglas and Simmons are going to forge a solid combination for years to come, since they’ll both be at the Reds next year.

  • Marcus Pontmercy

    What does mcmahon bring to the ruck?

    • ForceFan

      Against Uruguay the Wallabies generally held off on Defensive Rucks (only 19% of Total rucks by Forwards).
      McMahon and McCalman were the leaders in Ruck involvements.

      McMahon 27T/21A/6D – Early 93%/Impact 81%.
      McCalman 26T/19A/7D – Early 85%/Impact 73%.
      McCalman 2TOW; McMahon 0TOW.
      Tackles – McMahon 13/1, McCalman 8/0
      Carries: McMahon 10 for 67m, McCalman 10 for 61m.
      Against Wales I’d prefer Fardy, Pocock and McCalman to give more Lineout options.

      McMahon works in Lineout for Rebels but has yet to be developed, as has Hooper recently, for the Lineout.

      • Marcus Pontmercy

        The welsh believe they have chance now with hooper out. They prob select 2 fetchers as well…

  • Utah

    Great work again ForceFan. I had 4 turnovers for Pocock. Did you include that one in the last 5 minutes that the Fox commentators mistakenly attributed to McCalman?

    • Utah

      Please disregard. You are spot on (again). It was 3. Note to self, never question the man’s numbers.

      • ForceFan

        The ruck numbers I collect myself.
        The others are generally from ESPN Scrum (but they only give TO conceded). Run m at ESPN are usually in agreement with Vodacom Rugby and SuperRugby Stats (during the season).

        I use the TO from Vodacom Rugby as they usually agree with my perceptions of the match.

        • Utah

          That you collect ruck numbers yourself is incredible. Keep up the good work. I look forward to this article more than any other FYI.

  • These articles are just about my favourites on the site Forcefan. Please keep doing them.

  • MOTM performance from Launchbury on those numbers

    • Parker

      Launchbury’s defensive alignment was off which opened up the way for our second try. None of our players did that so they couldn’t have been in the running for MOTM.

  • Simon

    I’m still concerned that about our running game and this illustrates why – England looked far more dangerous in running than we did. We were just lucky that the few breaks we did manage pretty much all resulted in tries. Cheika’s structure of standing so deep in attack just does not seem to work against teams with a good defensive structure. Thankfully we have enough strength at the set piece and the breakdown to compensate, but imagine what we could achieve if we had the running game back up to where it used to be as well. We’d be almost All Blacks standard.

  • galumay

    The other reflection this forced on me was, what if Hooper’s brain fart had resulted in a red card at the time. Its hard to see how the Wobblies would have won with out Hooper for that length of time.Hopefully its a strong reminder to the team of how important discipline is and how lucky they were to dodge that bullet. Its probably even worse given their dominance at the time – at least Eng has the excuse that they were chasing the game from behind at the point that Farrell earned his YC.
    Thanks for the detailed breakdown of the stats, Forcefan, fascinating reading!

  • ForceFan

    Ooops – forgot my normal explanations:

    1. Early means 1st or 2nd of player’s team AFTER the ball carrier has been tackled and brought to ground.

    2. Impact means active engagement: strong physical contact, changed shape of ruck, clean-out, protecting ball etc. (more than hand on someone’s bum or arriving after the hard work has been done). Yes it’s subjective – but as I collect all data at least it’s consistent.

    3. Impact DOES NOT equate to Effectiveness. I’ve concluded that coming up with an
    effectiveness measure is just too hard in the time that I have available – but
    open to suggestions.


ForceFan grew up with Aussie Football in Melbourne but progressively has switched codes due to his employment in the Mining Industry. Being surrounded by Kiwis, Saffas and Pommes, rugby tests always seemed like a good excuse for a drink with mates. Real turning point was the 2003 RWC with the semi win over the Kiwis and the spectacle of the Final. Has followed the Western Force since inception and supportive of the development and standards shown by the Western Force under Michael Foley, David Wessels and Kevin Foote and the strong leadership of Captain Matt Hodgson.

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