Wallabies Defence and Tackling Statistics in 2010 - Green and Gold Rugby
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Wallabies Defence and Tackling Statistics in 2010

Wallabies Defence and Tackling Statistics in 2010

I think “defence” is about the structure of the defensive line, line speed and the performance of the team as a whole, whereas “tackling” is what the individuals in the team do.

No matter how well a team’s defence is working, if the individuals aren’t tackling well, the opposition are going to put points on you. The same applies if the individuals are tackling well but the defence is poorly organised.

I thought the Wallabies defence improved the further the EOYT went on. One factor in that improvement would be a drop in the quality of the opposition compared to the first game against New Zealand but I think the addition of a defence coach must have also helped.

All three tries the All Blacks scored in Hong Kong were the result of issues with the Wallabies structure – the first when the Wallabies defence at the edge of the ruck on their own line was non-existent and the other two where the Wallabies ended up with front rowers defending at the end of their backline, which created mismatches.

Of the five remaining tries oppositions scored against the Wallabies in the tests on tour, three were from a scrum close to the line – one each to Wales and Italy when the Wallabies missed tackles and one penalty try to France. That left the two tries against England and either of those tries should have been allowed as I discussed in my review after the England game.

All five line breaks the All Blacks made in the first match of the tour were issues with the defence and occurred in the #13 channel – of course two of those had front rowers  in the #13 channel which led to the tries mentioned above.

Wales only made two line breaks in their match, with one coming from a turnover at the ruck and the other from a good offload. Neither were as a result of issues with the defence.

Of the 9 line breaks England made, 6 were from turnover ball where the Wallabies didn’t react quickly enough, 1 was a result of poor tackling on a kick chase, 1 was a poor tackling effort in the #10 channel and one was an issue with the defence where Benn Robinson found himself on the end of the line facing a five on one situation.

Italy only made the one line break, which was the result of the Wallabies failing to catch a high ball from the Italians.

France managed 2 line breaks, one as the result of a good offload and the other as a result of an issue with the Wallabies defence where France ended up with a good overlap out wide.

Overall, the Wallabies looked to have opposition attacks covered during the European leg of the tour, except for a big issue with defending turnover ball against England. The Wallabies’ line speed appeared much better throughout the tour than earlier in 2010.

In terms of dominant tackles, 21 percent of the Wallabies tackles were dominant on the EOYT compared to 22 percent for the whole season, so there was no major difference in this area.

One of the major differences in the Wallabies’ defence was the shift to move Quade Cooper out of the line after his poor tackling performances early on the tour. In all games on tour Quade was in the #10 position for all opposition set pieces but on subsequent phases things changed as the tour went on. In the game against New Zealand in Hong Kong, he was in the front line of defence 75 percent of subsequent phases. That seems about the right sort of percentage for a flyhalf because most teams have their #10 covering kicks, particularly when defending in the opposition half. After the England game there was a noticeable change – against Italy Quade was in the front line of defence 64 percent of the time and against France it was down to 46 percent.

When we look at the phases where Quade was in the front line of defence against New Zealand, Quade was in what I’d consider a typical #10 position 91 percent of the time.  Against Italy, that reduced to 43 percent and against France it was down to 41 percent.

That is clearly a change in structure made by the coaches to emulate some of what the Reds did in the 2010 Super 14.  It has clearly worked because in the games against New Zealand and England Quade was called on to make 23 tackles and missed 13 for a 44 percent success rate whereas in the games against Italy and France he was only called on to make 11 tackles and he made 10 for a success rate of 91%.  The move is a logical one and although we’ll never know for sure who drove the change, it also seems logical that Phil Blake must have played a major role in the decision.  I hope the Wallabies retain a specialist defence coach in 2011.

In terms of tackling, Quade ended up with a tackle success rate of 60 percent for 2010, which was the lowest of all 34 players who got on the field this year.  There were a couple of 100 percent players but they achieved that with very little playing time.  The leading defender of those that has substantial game time, both in terms of numbers of tackles made and tackle success rate, was David Pococok with 245 tackles at a success rate of 98 percent!

The most dominant tacklers of those that had reasonable game time were Rob Simmons at 38 percent, Nathan Sharpe, Saia Faingaa and Dean Mumm at 35 percent and Ben Daley at 33 percent.  Of the forwards, Mark Chisolm at only 9 percent dominant tackles wasn’t very dominant at all!  In the backs Adam Ashley-Cooper achieved 20 percent dominant tackles whilst Lachlan Turner also achieved that same percentage from a lot less game time.  Luke Burgess was next best at 18 percent with a number of back line players at 17 percent including Kurtley Beale.

Lachlan Turner with a 100 percent tackle success rate was best of the backs in this area with Will Genia next best at 89 percent.  Quade Cooper, Rob Horne and Kurtley Beale filled the bottom three slots in the backline with their tackle success rates.

I’ve also included another measure looking at the ratio of tackles made to minutes played.  Matt Hodgson only played 57 minutes but achieved a ratio of 0.35. As you’d expect David Pocock was prominent at 0.21 and James Slipper at 0.18 was a good result.  Anthony Faingaa, Berrick Barnes, Will Genia and Luke Burgess led the backs with ratios of 0.11 to 0.14.  Of course statistics like this don’t always reveal the true story of what players were doing in defence but over the full season it’ certainly interesting to see the differences between players.

Here are the results for the Wallabies tackling in 2010 – we’ll start looking at other areas next week.

Player Minutes Played Total Tackles Made Tackles Made to Minutes Played Ratio Dominant Tackles Dominant Tackle % Tackles Missed Successful Tackle %
Benn Robinson 715 80 0.11 15 19% 10 89%
James Slipper 474 85 0.18 20 24% 7 92%
Ben Daley 208 18 0.09 6 33% 1 95%
Stephen Moore 485 91 0.19 22 24% 9 91%
Saia Faingaa 580 57 0.1 20 35% 10 85%
Huia Edmonds 103 10 0.1 3 30% - 100%
Tatafu Polota-Nau 22 2 0.09 1 50% - 100%
Ben Alexander 392 45 0.11 12 27% 8 85%
Salesi Ma’afu 578 77 0.13 19 25% 7 92%
Pekahou Cowan 28 6 0.21 - - 1 86%
Nathan Sharpe 1,031 154 0.15 54 35% 11 93%
Mark Chisolm 454 55 0.12 5 9% 5 92%
Dean Mumm 668 78 0.12 27 35% 9 90%
Rob Simmons 229 32 0.14 12 38% 3 91%
Rocky Elsom 1,200 182 0.15 48 26% 25 88%
David Pocock 1,167 245 0.21 53 22% 6 98%
Ben McCalman 542 82 0.15 12 15% 16 84%
Richard Brown 620 92 0.15 20 22% 10 90%
Matt Hodgson 57 20 0.35 1 5% 2 91%
Scott Higginbotham 16 2 0.13 - - - 100%
Will Genia 779 82 0.11 7 9% 10 89%
Luke Burgess 412 44 0.11 8 18% 10 81%
Quade Cooper 1,026 69 0.07 7 10% 46 60%
Matt Giteau 889 84 0.09 10 12% 14 86%
Berrick Barnes 394 48 0.12 8 17% 8 86%
Anthony Faainga 94 13 0.14 2 15% 2 87%
Adam Ashley-Cooper 1,020 92 0.09 18 20% 21 81%
Rob Horne 404 36 0.09 6 17% 14 72%
Pat McCabe 3 - - - - - -
Drew Mitchell 1,021 63 0.06 14 22% 15 81%
Digby Ioane 223 14 0.06 1 7% 2 88%
James O’Connor 1,034 59 0.06 10 17% 15 80%
Lachlan Turner 166 10 0.06 2 20% - 100%
Kurtley Beale 869 42 0.05 7 17% 15 74%
Total 17,903 2,069 0.12 450 22% 312 87%
  • Pedro

    That makes my head spin.

    Minutes to tackle ratio is a bit misleading with bench players getting an advantage there.

    It really highlights how much work Pocock and Elsom have got through over the season.

    Wouldn’t mind seeing the ratio of dominant tackles to missed tackles too, but seriously good work on the collation.

  • dobduff11

    Two big standouts:
    Pocock 245 tackles, 53 dominant tackles, only 6 missed and 98% sheesh thats impressive.

    Quade 46 missed tackles 60% success rate oh dear

  • murph

    McCalman: worst defence in the pack. Enough said.

    Rob Horne is shown up for what he is as well.

    One surprise is O’Connor. I would have thought he’d have a much poorer record than the stats suggest.

    I like stats.

  • Garry

    So the new Defense coaches remedy for Quade’s deficiencies is to watch what they do at the Reds, and do the same,…..hide him?

    Brilliant. Jesus, sounds like an easy job?

    • murph

      Well, you’d have thought it would the be sensible option but Deans apparently didn’t wake up to it until the very last part of the season. Combine this with his insistence on using Gits outside Cooper, him failing to use Laurie Weeks and Scott Higginbotham and you’d think that Deans had not watched any S14 matches involving the Reds.

  • Garry

    So the new Defense coaches remedy for Quade’s deficiencies is to watch what they do at the Reds, and do the same,…..hide him?


    Jesus, sounds like an easy job?

  • Chunderstruck

    Would anyone agree that backs have to make more difficult tackles than forwards?

    Backs are more likely to tackle other backs out in space, who are designed to break the line. Forwards will often be running directly at other forwards close to the ruck just trying to gain a few meters.

    • murph

      Agreed. Additionally, missed tackles aren’t as obvious in the forwards because they more often tend to congregate in a pack rather than a line.

    • murph

      No 10 is the most difficult defensive position on the field. The width of the channel and the number of options for the attacking team make it very tough.

    • Pedro

      I would say that the backs have more high pressure tackles and their opponent will generally be moving faster. So generally harder, but then you never need to make too many in a row, so you’re generally more able.

      I would say the 13 channel is the hardest position to defend, you need to be able to tackle people at pace and often the area mobile back rowers straighten into.

  • Austin – one of your finest

    The turnover count and impact of it really descirbes to me how that game at Twickers went so wrong

    It really didn’t feel like impressive structured attack from the poms, but rather catching us on the bounce, as you point out. I too was struck by how poorly we deqlt with it defensively

    • Garry

      But really, they’d learned from the previous two games in Oz. Flood the ruck, slow the WB ball, and you’re half way home.

      The only ones who’d hadn’t become smarter for the experience were our coaches. No plan B?

      • Robson

        Not sure that there is a plan A either. But great work Austin. Thanks.

        • Garry

          And Jon O’neil, where is your Plan C?

  • pants

    Awesome work. I wonder how Richie Mccaw’s stats compare to Pocock.

  • Richo

    Top stuff Austin. I’m surprised at KB’s missed tackle count. Was he covering in most of those instances?

    • Austin

      Richo – this is where statistics become really useful for a coach. Once you drill down, you can identify areas to work on or confirm what you thought you saw on the field. Just looking at the number of missed tackles – in Kurtley’s case 15 – is useful but doesn’t really tell you what to work on.

      So if we drill down on the 15 missed tackles in total – 3 were in cover – 2 in a one on one situation after a line break – 2 when in the front line of defence and 8 on kick/chase.

      The first 5 listed here are tough tackles when you’re a fullback with multiple players running at you, which is usually where a #15 makes most of their misses.

      Having just watched the clip for each of his misses, the kick/chase misses are an area Kurtley could improve on. He’s using his speed really well to pressure the player running the ball back but most of the time he’s out on his own and is getting stepped.

      Some coaches employ a single defender in this way, just to put pressure on. The role of that player is to come out of the line and rush as fast as they can at the player with the ball in hand. The coach is prepared to risk that the chaser will get beaten most of the time but every now and then they’ll tackle the ball carrier and force a turnover or a big gain in territory.

      This may be what the Wallabies are doing but if I was using a player in that role, I’d be coaching him to chase hard 90% of the way and then just slow his approach over the last five metres to get his balance in case the player tries to step – that way he’d be able to make more of these tackles and be even more effective.

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  • Jay

    Forgive me if I’m being stupid, but that overall tackle completion statistic of 74% looks a bit iffy. If there are only 2 players with lower percentages than that figure, surely the overall percentage should be a bit higher – or is Cooper’s ridiculous number of misses pulling down the overall by a huge margin? That’s about the only explanation, I can see.

    Also, Kurtley Beale’s poor defence surely must have counted against him in the voting for IRB player of the year – then again, Shane Williams won it a few years ago, so perhaps not.

    • Austin

      2069 tackles made from 2069 + 312 attempted = 87%. Good pick up.

      • Larkhage

        they did what it took to get it up to 2000 + 69

  • Andrew

    Great analysis Austin, thanks.

    As I suspected, Slipper and Moore outtackle the rest of the front row by a ration of almost 2:1. Moorey, c’mon home! The Reds miss you.

  • Good stuff Austin.

  • Zorro

    Why dont you dig up a few of these stats;

  • Zorro

    Why dont you dig up a few of these stats;
    – Dominant tackles that led to turnovers. Answer – very low
    – Comparison of line speed between All Blacks & Wallabies. Answer – very different.
    – Comparison of ball retention time between All Blacks & Wallabies. And the effect that time has on the success of the following phase of attack.
    – Number of times Wallaby players attempted to pilfer/turnover the ball with the hands at the tackle and succeed. Answer – very low. When will the Wallabies coaching staff realise the interpretation of the hands at the tackle contest have changed. Everyone else has figured it out.

    Its funny, for a New Zealander Robbie Deans hasn’t taught the Wallabies anything about winning the ball quickly at the breakdown or how to contest a ruck without using your hands.

  • a different chris

    I’m glad that my thoughts on giteau not being as a terrible a defender as a lot of people made him out to be is vindicated by these stats

    he didn’t have many dominant tackles (12%), but 86% success rate, same as barnes (who everyone calls a solid defender) and 5% more than AAC.

    i’d also really like to know which missed tackles led to tries scored against them, that would be very interesting. i wouldn’t mind betting that a fair few belonged to quade

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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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