Ireland and Wales dominate the power game in clinical victories – analysis powered by AWS

It was a weekend where the data showed keeping your discipline and turning chances into points was key.

It was a weekend where the data showed keeping your discipline and turning chances into points was key.

We can use the Matchstats, powered by AWS, to measure if teams are scoring points from the chances they create using points per visit to the 22 and tries per linebreak.

Teams expect to score points on every visit to the opposition 22 and a try every time they make a linebreak. But what do the stats say?

Wales v England

This game had plenty of talking points and controversy but the main point for me was English discipline, or lack of.

England gave away 14 penalties, which is part of a worrying trend. They gave away 15 against Scotland and then 12 against Italy in Round 2. It is just too many.

Wales also halted the waves of English attack with nine dominant tackles. A dominant tackle absorbs all the positive attacking pressure and puts the defence on the front foot.

Wales have now done this 21 times, the most of all six sides in the Championship, and tied with France on a per-game basis.

Giving away penalties and being on the receiving end of dominant Welsh tackles sapped the momentum from the exciting English attack.

As a player during the heat of those matches, you need to keep a calm head and get a feel for what a referee is focusing on.

If a referee is blowing their whistle quickly for not rolling away after the tackle, then you need to understand that and adapt to it. At the moment England are not being smart and they are not learning from their mistakes.

Matchstats can show us the results of those penalties. Concede a penalty and you give the opposition a chance to kick into a good attacking position, specifically the opposition 22.

Wales scored 4.0 points from their visits to the 22 compared to 2.6 for England. Without these advanced metrics we wouldn’t know the true cost to England that allowing Wales into their 22 had.

What is clear is that Wales were clinical – more clinical than they have been before in the Championship – when they entered the red zone. That, combined with English ill-discipline, which gave Wales a free pass to get into 22, are the clear factors that led Wales to score more points than they ever have before against England.

There were positives for England, however. I believe we are seeing the return to form of Billy Vunipola, and he very nearly made it into my team of the weekend.

The No.8 carried for 116m, the most of the match and the second most of the round, and his five tackle breaks were bettered only by Ireland full-back Hugo Keenan.

Vunipola broke the gain line on 83% of his 16 carries to give England’s exciting backs front foot ball.

If you are moving forward and achieving gain line success, something England did on 59% of their carries – the most all Championship – attacking becomes much easier as you get to play against a tiring defence who have to keep moving backwards.

The result didn’t come but I believe this was England’s best attacking performance for a long time.

Italy v Ireland

Matchstats, powered by AWS, allow us to see why Ireland’s attack flourished in Rome. Ireland’s power game was excellent and they made eight linebreaks, which equals their tournament total after two rounds.

From those eight linebreaks they scored three tries. The Matchstat data gives us an insight into how clinical Ireland were, and that was ultimately what won them the match.

Italy had four linebreaks, the same as Wales and only one fewer than England, but could only convert one of them into tries. That is the difference between a winning team and a losing one.

A lot of people think the onus is on the player who makes the break to score the points. Actually, it is the support play which makes the difference.

A break is great but the opportunity to score points can be nullified if your teammates don’t anticipate and react to get on your shoulder. Jeremy Guscott was brilliant at this. He was so quick that he would hang deep and then react to anything that happened and had the pace to get to where he needed to be.

Ireland were more adventurous with the ball. Their six offloads were the most of the weekend and their most of the Championship.

The offloads and linebreaks made the Irish attack very efficient. This was the first match where Ireland had fewer than 20 minutes of attacking possession, 17.7 minutes, but they scored more points than in the previous two matches combined.

Matchstats, powered by AWS, point to the role Italy had in their own downfall. They conceded nine turnovers against Ireland but incredibly six of those came within their own half and three in or just beyond their 22.

A more dynamic Ireland will be a concern for both Scotland and England, who they face in the final two matches.

Will Carling’s Team of the Week

AWS Rugby Ambassador Will Carling is a former England Team captain. Every week, he will share his insights and explore the impact of Matchstats – powered by AWS on each round of the Guinness Six Nations, along with selecting his Team of the Week.