Sides who utilise a conservative game plan are most likely to flourish at World Cup.
It is not without coincidence that some of the most successful coaches in the modern game have been those who understand the necessity of getting the basics right. Rugby, many have argued, is a simple game based on making you tackles, picking easy passes and kicking your goals.
Joe Schmidt’s Ireland rarely offload the ball for example, but by the same token are difficult to turnover. Likewise Warren Gatland’s Wales utilise a basic but effective attacking strategy, while Michael Cheika has ensured Australia brought a vastly improved scrum to the tournament. It would seem that those who ‘play the percentages’ have benefited at this World Cup.
Indeed, Argentina, Tonga and Samoa, have recorded more offloads than New Zealand at the tournament. Incidentally those sides make up the top four top offloading nations at the tournament, with Fiji Georgia, England, Italy, South Africa and Scotland rounding off the top ten.
Ireland, a side who trade in terms such as ‘precision’, ‘accuracy’ and ‘execution’, have only offloaded possession on 17 occasions during the tournament so far, ranking them second last on the World Cup’s stats page. With 21 offloads to their name, Wales rank 17th, Australia 13th with 23 and France 11th with 26.
However when it comes to making the most carries over the gain line, Ireland lead with 281. The Irish are followed by South Africa, who made 256 carries over the gain line, with New Zealand, Argentina, England and Wales also occupying positions within the top ten. Incidentally, sides such as Fiji, Georgia and Italy, who were amongst the leading off loading nations, rank lowest in carrying over the gain line.
It would also seem that off loading does not necessarily lead to massive line breaks, with Argentina leading New Zealand, South Africa, England, Australia, Wales and Ireland leading the way in that regard.
It would seem that teams are therefore looking to protect possession by carrying it into contact, rather than throwing a risky offload that might might result in an unnecessary turnover. Indeed despite England creating more line breaks, gaining more meters and offloading more against both Australia and Wales, they found themselves on the losing side. In both fixtures, England also did not carry over the gain line as much as their Pool A rivals.
Similarly, although France offloaded the ball six times against Ireland, they only created two clean line breaks. In Contrast the possession concious Irish, carried the ball over the gain line on 87 occasions, risking only three offloads and making just two clean breaks.
Based on the statistics thus far, it would therefore seen that possession security and conservative tactics will dominate the remaining games at the World Cup.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena