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Stats reveal how England are actually getting worse - Beyond 80

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Joe Marler of England looks on as he watches players of Scotland celebrate with the Calcutta Cup after England are defeated by Scotland during the Guinness Six Nations 2024 match between Scotland and England at BT Murrayfield Stadium on February 24, 2024 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Dan Mullan - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Duhan van der Merwe’s first try against England was the turning point for Scotland in their fourth successive Calcutta Cup win, but looking at the tournament statistics we can see that England might be in a bit of trouble.

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Van der Merwe went on to score a hat-trick as Murrayfield witnessed a 30-21 win against their rivals.

“That was the key turning point for the game because up until that point, England had looked to play with a lot more attacking vigour than we’ve seen from them for a number of years,” said Ben Kay on the latest episode of Beyond 80.

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“It just got into the psyche, that element of doubt that they didn’t quite know what they were doing, maybe just meant that there was a hesitation. We started to see passes not quite going to hand, or up at a shoulder.

“We saw players hesitating on a line and that made it much more difficult to read for those trying to get them the ball and England just started to make error after error and Scotland realised this, and felt ‘We didn’t have to play that much’.

“You saw that a lot of Scotland’s tries after that came from errors from England and Duhan van der Merwe obviously the man that had an absolute field day.”

While England started well with a try by George Furbank, analyst Ross Hamilton explains that key statistics throughout the tournament show where England have been lacking.

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“That’s the first try that England have scored from the first phase in this tournament. So yes that looked good and that looked sharp, but it didn’t necessarily continue that way.

“England have only made 14 line breaks in the tournament so far, only Italy have made fewer. Our [England’s] big issue was converting the chances when we get them. We’ve actually had the second most entries into the opposition 22m of any team, but we have the worst red zone efficiency – points per entry – just 1.75.

“So we’re making opportunities yes, but we just can’t convert, and that seems to be England’s big problem.”

Six Nations

P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Ireland
3
3
0
0
15
2
Scotland
3
2
1
0
9
3
England
3
2
1
0
8
4
France
3
1
1
1
6
5
Wales
3
0
3
0
3
6
Italy
3
0
2
1
3
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The other big problem for England is their increasing error rate, clearly now a big concern for the England camp.

“One of the big things that contributes to that is the amount of errors that we made. We had 22 turnovers conceded, that’s the most of any team in any game so far, and actually we’ve regressed as we’ve gone on.

“Steve Borthwick talks about getting better week on week and the more we’ve been in camp the more cohesive we might get, yet we made 10 errors in the first round, 13 in the second and 22 in round 3. So we’ve just got a little bit worse as it’s gone on, and that’s been a big factor in us not being able to take our chances.”

Beyond 80 have done a full in-depth technical analysis of that match as well as the other two in round 3, which you can watch exclusively on RugbyPass TV or the RugbyPass Youtube channel. 

 

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Poorfour 10 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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