Category: Attack analysis
The Highlanders established a distinctive tactical identity under former head coach Jamie Joseph: they ensured that games were played at pace, backed their defence to withstand a high volume of opposition possessions, and looked to strike quickly with efficient and inventive attacking play. Under Joseph’s former assistant Tony Brown during the 2017 season, the team did not alter this approach – Round 1 against the Chiefs aside. They averaged only 45.7% of the total carries made in their fixtures – 4% lower than any other New Zealand franchise – but generated cleak breaks with the second-highest frequency (11.2%) of all teams in the competition; on the other side of the ball, they allowed opponents to make clean breaks with the third-lowest frequency (7.3%) teams.
After a win over the Blues last weekend, it appears that – despite a third head coach in three seasons – the team’s tactical approach will not be significantly different in 2018. They made 44.9% of the game’s total carries in Aaron Mauger’s first game in charge, and scored points with quick, efficient attacking strikes.
The 2018 Six Nations championship kicks off tomorrow with a match between Wales and Scotland in Cardiff that is highly anticipated, as a result of the tactical shift both sides appear to be undergoing. Scotland, in particular, are receiving a lot of media attention in the lead up to Gregor Townsend’s first tournament in charge, due to their new head coach’s attacking reputation and their strong November showing against Australia and New Zealand – aspects of which showed evidence of Townsend’s coaching focus.
Scotland’s record since the former Glasgow coach took over is impressive: a 4-2 record across the June and November internationals (including wins home and away against the Wallabies), along with averages of 32.3 points and 4.5 tries per game. Of the 27 tries they scored in this period, an impressive 5 resulted from opposition turnovers – a mark which suggests that Townsend is already moulding this side into the type of all-court team comfortable in transition not often seen in international rugby in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Lions’ Saturday team has produced two dominant defensive performances against the Crusaders and the New Zealand Maori, but will face their greatest challenge in Eden Park on Saturday. What can we learn about this contest from the Crusaders’ lack of success with ball in hand in Christchurch, and the All Blacks’ attacking dominance against Samoa?
Technical analysis of the activity of NZ’s ball-carriers after the tackle, looking at their first 6 games of 2016:
Before Connacht’s inspirational run to the Pro12 title this season, the last side to capture the imagination of the Irish rugby public was Joe Schmidt’s Leinster of 2010-13. While Pat Lam will find it tough to equal the three consecutive European trophies achieved by his compatriot in Dublin, his domestic title was founded on similar principles to Schmidt’s success in that period: a superbly executed attacking system, high skill levels and an aversion to kicking away possession. The zenith of this Leinster team was perhaps the run to their first Heineken Cup in the 2010-11 season; after negotiating a difficult pool fairly comfortably, they beat Leicester and Toulouse in the knock-out rounds before a famous comeback victory over Northampton Saints in the final at the Millenium Stadium.
Before last week’s first test at Newlands, I wrote this piece for Ultimate Rugby on Ireland’s attack over the past 3 seasons under Joe Schmidt. It was great to see Ireland come out and move the ball wide effectively early in the contest – Paddy Jackson at 10, Robbie Henshaw at 13 and Jared Payne at 15 were all important to their success in this regard. Henshaw exhibited the passing ability that has been clear from his play with Connacht, while Jared Payne’s positional play attacking from fullback was far superior to that of Rob Kearney during the 6 Nations. The red card to CJ Stander in the opening quarter obviously caused Ireland to narrow their attack and implement a more conservative gameplan, but it will be fascinating to see how they approach the second test with a series win there for the taking.
This was originally a guest post on Ultimate Rugby.