What an incredible weekend of rugby. Ireland’s victory over England would have been the talk of the round were it not followed up by one of the matches of the decade.
Matchstats powered by AWS can give us deeper insight into what drove success for each team.
Points Per Visit To The 22 and team discipline were the keys in my view. They are actually closely linked.
Give away lots of penalties and you will probably find yourself defending lots of Visits to the 22 as teams can kick for touch to create attacking platforms close to your tryline. Equally, when you are defending within your 22, you tend to give away more penalties as you can’t afford to concede territory.
After four rounds Wales had conceded ten penalties per match, fewer than Italy and England but slightly more than Scotland, France, and Ireland.
But crucially, they were the only side to have conceded neither a yellow nor a red card. Given that trend, it was a surprise to see Wales let down by their discipline when the Grand Slam was within reach.
The onslaught by France in the final ten minutes led not only to multiple penalties but also to Wales’ first cards of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations. Those two yellows, against Taulupe Faletau and Liam Williams, first levelled up the teams after Paul Willemse’s red card and then gave France a man advantage.
In total Wales conceded 15 penalties to just six for France. Six of those Welsh penalties came back-to-back-to-back between minutes 69 and 79. That was the ten-minute section which lost Wales the game.
We can see how that pressure looks on the graph below, which shows France’s Visits to the Welsh 22. Les Bleus spent almost seven minutes in the Welsh 22. Wales almost held out for what would have been an epic Grand Slam but that extreme pressure exerted by France eventually told.
ILL-DISCIPLINED ENGLAND SUFFER
Discipline has been a problem throughout the Championship for England. Along with Italy, who play under pressure a lot more, they conceded the most penalties per game with 13.4.
Ireland spent very little time in the English 22 but England still gave away 14 penalties in this fixture. That needs to be a focus for head coach Eddie Jones as it is currently restricting what his side can achieve.
There are three key pieces of information about Visits to the 22 which allow us to build up a picture and understanding of why teams are having success:
In Dublin, England dominated the first two statistics. Ireland spent just one minute and 20 seconds in the English 22 off the back of their four entries. England on the other hand spent over three minutes building pressure from their seven Visits To The 22.
Time spent in the 22 is very informative. Scoring almost immediately upon entering the opposition 22 is a great sign of a clinical team. Recall how Keith Earls raced in for his try directly from a clever lineout while Jack Conan’s try also came almost immediately after Ireland gained a foothold. It indicates that you can grab points quickly through incisive play without having to spend time building up pressure.
POINTS PER VISIT GIVE IRELAND THE EDGE
That efficiency is key. England managed just 12 points in total from their seven entries but Ireland snatched 17 points from their four visits. That meant 4.3 Points Per Visit To The 22 for Ireland, compared to just 1.7 for England.
England will go away from the 2021 Guinness Six Nations disappointed in many aspects of their play but along with their discipline, that inability to convert pressure into points should form part of the review.
Against both France and Ireland, England entered the opposition 22 more often than the other team, but they scored fewer than two points per Visit To The 22 in both matches.
As ever, the Guinness Six Nations gives the teams plenty to think about, and plenty of data to work with, as they begin to analyse and plan for next year.
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.