Returning for the women’s edition of Rugby’s Greatest Championship, the Smart Ball is back to offer unparalleled insight into the women’s game. In particular, the Smart Ball – powered by an advanced ultra-wideband system involving beacons around the stadium and a tracking chip in the ball – highlights the attacking-oriented identity of the women’s game.
In the first round of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, there were a total of 5,265 passing metres and 2,945 kicking metres. By comparison, there were 5,056 metres passed and 5,713 metres kicked in the final round of the men’s championship. The TikTok Women’s Six Nations will be far more determined by how well teams move the ball and play when in possession, really highlighting the individual talents in the tournament.
So much so, every match in Round 1 was won by the team who made more passing metres. Particularly emblematic of this was England’s scorching performance against Scotland, during which they made a round-high 1,257 passing metres.
The attacking mindset throughout the TikTok Women’s Six Nations is also shown by the lack of box kicking in order to gain territorial ascendancy. Just six box kicks were made in the opening round, with England and Ireland not making a single one. Teams want to win this title by creating pressure playing expansive rugby with ball-in-hand, often using using brute force to finish these opportunities as we saw in a physical first round.
England showed this attitude in abundance for their third try of the match. From a scrum in their own half, the Red Roses went wide quickly with a long 11.2 metre pass from fly-half Holly Aitchison. The quality of this pass – which travelled at 37.8 kilometres per hour – meant that a short 1.8 metre ball from Lagi Tuima put wingers Jess Breach and Claudia MacDonald in space. Once the ball reached MacDonald’s hands, she used her electric pace to finish from 55 metres. Four passes, 4.9 seconds from edge to edge, one sensational score.
Aitchison had a particularly strong game, acting as a prominent distributor in the England backline. She made more passing metres than any other fly half (260) and was happy to put boot to ball when they felt under pressure, making a round-high 247 metres of territory gain with her kicking.
Another player to underline her quality early in this tournament was French scrum-half, Alexandra Chambon. Making an early claim to the title of ‘Championship’s finest passer’, she finished Round 1 with the longest average pass distance of any scrum half (7.5 metres), the best average spiral efficiency (92.6%), and the second-fastest average pass speed (37 kilometres per hour).t
However, teams at the weekend also created potent attacking opportunities for themselves by taking advantage of their opposition’s poor discipline. Ireland and Scotland – who suffered heavy defeats – conceded the most territory from penalty kicks, 198 and 165 metres respectively. This gave their opponents the opportunity to exert their power close to the line.
Whilst Welsh tighthead Sisilia Tuipulotu literally burst onto the scene at the weekend – scoring a surging, dynamic try – the Welsh pack impressed as a unit. They scored two maul tries, showing off the cohesion of their forwards and the quality of their lineout drill. In fact, Wales had the most lineout opportunities in Round 1 with 18, winning 94% of them.
To put them within striking distance on the first occasion, Elinor Snowsill made a territory gain of 15.1 metres from her penalty kick to touch. Still 17.6 metres from the corner flag, the brute force of the pack did the rest. For the second maul try – Wales’ third of the afternoon – Snowsill’s kick left play just 4.9 metres from the try line, a perfect opportunity for the pack to assert their dominance once more.
As the competition continues, the styles of the Six Nations teams – rebuilding after the 2022 World Cup – will be animated as never before by the introduction of the Smart Ball. As well as providing insightful post-match analysis, look out for live figures during matches, which will highlight the individual skill rife in the jewel of the women’s international season.