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'It just seems to be an absolute death knell' - the position you simply can't meddle with at a RWC

By Josh Raisey

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Former Australia tighthead and co-founder of GAIN LINE analytics Ben Darwin joined the RugbyPass Aotearoa Rugby Pod this week to discuss the errors teams make at World Cups.


Darwin shared with Ross Karl and James Parsons the mistakes that commonly lead to a team’s demise, which range from playing with inexperienced centres to playing in unfamiliar jerseys.

The New Zealand public do not have fond memories of the grey jersey worn by the All Blacks in the 2007 World Cup quarter final loss to France, but Darwin has suggested there is good reason for that.

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Ali Price on the moment he knew he was a Lion & facing the Springbok stars | All Access | RugbyPass
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Ali Price on the moment he knew he was a Lion & facing the Springbok stars | All Access | RugbyPass

Likewise, Steve Hansen’s centre partnership in the All Blacks’ loss to England in the 2019 semi-final has since been an area of contention, and the Australian explains why toying with the midfield can have grave consequences.

“One of the things we find, that is basically suicide, is never introduce a centre in World Cups,” the 28-cap former Wallaby said.

“Because 10-12-13 is where the most level of understanding is required and you need people playing in position. That has a really positive impact on performance.

“It just seems to be an absolute death knell because there’s a law of diminishing returns.


“It’s the early stages where the problems lie. So whenever you get relationships in early stages is when you get things going catastrophically wrong, and we see that across so many different sports.

“One of the things we do is we look at systems. So for example when a coach comes into a club, we’ve found the more experience they have, the more team tends to underperform- Gatland at the Chiefs for example. Because they change so much to suit the way they might want to do something that the team is unable to cope with that level of change even if they are cohesive. It’s almost as if the cohesion works against them.

“The second component is role. So if you get people playing out of position, even a lock at No4 or No5, you look at England in the World Cup final having a N04 playing at No5, a right-sided lock, that component. And then you’ve got the interplay between people.


“Another interesting one we’ve found out is jerseys. If you are using a jersey you haven’t used before or haven’t played in quite a bit, that the ability for the team to attack drops off dramatically. They defend at the same rate.

“I was looking at [the All Blacks’] ’07 World Cup quarters against France and one of the things was they completely lost the ability to offload. I think their offloads were at 30 percent accuracy in the second half.”


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