A Brief History of Eddie Jones Respecting Officials

“We’ve got to trust the referees, respect their integrity”, said Eddie Jones this week, after the furore over Wales’ disallowed try rumbled on with World Rugby confirming that the TMO should have awarded the try (let’s ignore Steff Evans’ knock on for now!).

Jones went on to say, “I just think once the game’s done and dusted that’s the game, you can’t have retrospective refereeing of decisions being done. We’ve got to trust the referees, respect their integrity. When I say respect the referee, that’s the TV process as well, and then you leave it at that. One side’s won, one side’s lost.”

Great stuff – very laudable, but let’s rewind a week and focus on another of Eddie’s interviews in the build up to the England – Wales game. In Jones’ view the Welsh captain Alun-Wyn Jones had prevented the Scottish fly-half from taking a conversion in the preceeding weekend’s Wales-Scotland fixture. Referee Pascal Gauzere was there on the spot and decided no action was needed, but that didn’t stop Jones:

“All we say is just to be respectful [to referees]……It’s not great for the game and I’ve said something to World Rugby about it, I feel that strongly. We’ve got to respect the integrity of the referee in the game.”

How and why the coach of a team can discuss with World Rugby the actions of a captain of a team he is due to play is a whole different issue, but the point here is Jones felt unable to trust Gauzere to do his job in the Wales-Scotland game but just 7 days later he feels the need to preach to the masses that officials should be left to do their job.

It’s great to see Jones has such concern for the integrity of referees but does his track record back that up?

 

Fine for criticising a referee

In 2007, as coach of Queensland Reds, Jones was fined A$10,000 for comments made about referee Matt Goddard after a Super Rugby fixture against the ACT Brumbies.

Jones pleaded guilty to breaching the code of conduct and described the referee’s second-half handling of the scrums in the Brisbane match as “ludicrous” and “disgraceful”.

 

Italy and the ruck tactic

Jones wasn’t a fan of the tactic Italy deployed in the 2017 6 Nations clash, where Italian defenders stood off the tackle meaning a ruck wasn’t formed – and therefore no offside line was created.

The England coach was less than complimentary about the tactic and accused the French referee Romain Poite of being “flustered”:

“The referee got flustered – I have never seen a referee lose his perspective of the game [like that].”

Remember Jones’ comment about the TMO controversy and that once the game is finished,  “…..you leave it at that.”, well he took the opposite tack after the Italian game and suggested that World Rugby should “look at it”, meaning change the law (which is incidentally exactly what happened):

“I don’t think anyone wants to see a game like that. No-one likes to see rugby not played in its proper form so World Rugby will have to have a very close look at it.”

 

Owen Farrell and Australia

In the 2017 test between England and Australia, Owen Farrell was criticised by some for seemingly influence the referee to consult the TMO for an offence in the build up to Marika Koroibete’s try.

When quizzed about this after the game Jones said:

“If the referee accepts the way he [the referee] spoke to him was alright then that’s alright for me” 

And yet when Pascal Gauzere was happy with Alun-Wyn Jones’ conduct during the recent Wales-Scotland game, he referred the incident to World Rugby!

 

Not so nice guy Eddie

Eddie Jones has no interest in protecting rugby’s integrity and ensuring respect for officials is maintained, as his history has shown, but what he does have is an interest in using the media to influence both the governing body and officials.

Jones is undoubtedly an excellent coach but he is in danger of tarnishing both his own legacy and rugby’s values with these harmful and inflammatory statements.

 

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Make Rugby Aerobic Again – Stop the Clock!

The majority of rugby watchers agree that we need to try and make rugby a faster game; to improve it as a spectacle, to ensure players of all shapes and sizes can play the game and to reduce the numbers of injuries (still to be proven?).

By “faster” we mean either reduce the amount of time players have standing around or increase the time on the pitch which should encourage players to focus on aerobic ability over power.

Two areas of dead time in most professional games are the scrum and the time after a try before a restart.

In both scenarios, referees should be instructed to speed up the play. Our article looking at the evolution of the scrum through the ages clearly shows how the scrum formation has changed from a means to quickly restart the game to a protracted phase that often sucks the life and momentum out of games.

Alongside an instruction to speed up play, professional rugby should start stopping the match clock in these dead times around the scrum and try.  Here we look at how much time is wasted in these areas that can be converted in to “real” match play.

 

Scrum

The scrum has been a mess for years and continues to be so. Even though an edict was sent to elite referees a season or two ago, to encourage them to speed up the scrum formation, our data shows no material difference in the time taken for the scrum to be completed.

Unlike the try – where the “dead time” is fairly consistent across the games we reviewed (see the data in the next section), the time taken on the match clock to complete a scrum can vary hugely from one scrum to another.

In the England-Wales game the first scrum officially took 7 seconds! This seems odd but after initially awarding Wales a penalty, (the referee strangely then seemed to switch his decision to a scrum), Dylan Hartley went off for an HIA assessment and the clock stopped until the ball was fed.

In the same game the fourth scrum took nearly 3 minutes on the match clock! This included a bit of time spent by both teams pushing and shoving each other, what looked like injury breaks, both teams taking an age to form and then a couple of resets.

The average time spent on a scrum in the game (from the initial whistle from the referee to the ball coming out of the scrum) was 84 seconds (slightly longer than our figures from other games across the last couple of seasons).

How many scrums in an average game?  In this 6 Nations we have had an average of 11.8 scrums per game.

So, the maths gives us 11.8  multiplied by 84 seconds = 991 seconds, which equates to 16.5 minutes or 20% of a game. 

 

Try 

Not that long ago a try was followed by a manly hand shake with the player next to you, the conversion was kicked and the game restarted.

Today’s successful try is often followed by the increasingly obligatory celebration, lots of back slapping, a TMO review, a drinks stop, 60 seconds of preparatory time for the place kicker and then a slow walk back to the half way for a restart.

How long does this take?  In the recent 6 Nations games between England and Wales, and Scotland and Ireland, it took on average 104.5 seconds between the referee blowing his whistle for the try and the restart. In real time this can be longer as the clock is usually stopped during a TMO review.

The time taken for the 6 tries ranged from 90 seconds to 116 seconds, so a fairly consistent figure.

Across the last 4 6 Nations tournaments an average of 4.64 tries per game have been scored. If we multiply 4.64 by 104.5 seconds we get 485 seconds (8 minutes).

So, in an average 6 Nations game, stopping the clock after the try and restarting it at the kick off will add 8 minutes or 10% of the match length to a game.

 

An opportunity to radically change the game

As this article has shown, by stopping the clock for the dead time at the scrum will give us an additional 16.5 minutes (or 20% of a game) play, while stopping the clock after a try will provide us with another 8 minutes (10% of the match length).

These simple changes – there is already someone managing the clock in professional games, will add approximately 30% more game time or 24 minutes to put it another way.

It has the ability to radically shift the game back to having an emphasis on skill and pace rather than just raw power.

The additional benefit is that when people are now paying up to £100 for a 6 Nations match, you get more rugby for your buck!

 

Your thoughts are welcome on this, in particular from a strength and conditioning perspective what the implications would be.

 

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England v Wales review – kicking duels & taking chances

After last week’s performances from England and Wales you would be forgiven for thinking that flowing, fast paced rugby was now the norm in the 6 Nations. If you did, this 2nd round encounter probably brought you straight back to earth.

Some may call it a proper test match, with two teams feeling each other out and teasing for weaknesses, while others would deem it a dull contest dominated by boot and controversy rather than creativity and guile.

Weather, pressure or Eddie’s comments?

What is clear is that neither team performed to the level we know they can play.  This may have been partly due to the weather – Twickenham experienced an afternoon of light rain and blustery wind, with both teams looking to put boot to ball when an opportunity arose.

Did Eddie Jones’ midweek personal attacks on the likes on Rhys Patchell have an effect on Wales performance?  Patchell is a player who outwardly exudes confidence but it’s his consistency – or lack of it, that has held him back the last few seasons. On his day he has all the weapons needed of a top test 10, but followers of his domestic performances will know that he has his off days.

It’s also worth remembering that by the time the teams took to the pitch Wales had just one first choice back playing and crucially they were shorn of Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar, whose games would have suited the inclement weather and game plan. Did the lack of experience, particularly in the back 3 and outside half contribute to Wales’ downfall?

We can postulate as to the factors that effected the two teams but the pattern in the first half was clearly established; kick the ball and pressure the opposition.

Kicking duels

England won the kicking duel in the first half and this gave them the early lead that they clung on to in the final minutes. So what was the difference between the two teams when it came to this facet of the game.

The first aspect was in Mike Brown and Anthony Watson, England had two players who either caught the ball in a defensive position or competed well in the air when England kicked.  By contrast, Wales struggled to cleanly catch the ball and usually coughed up possession back to England, usually with a net loss in territory.

The 2nd aspect was the quality of the kick itself. Wales reverted to the shorter, high kick with the aim to compete for the ball but the execution from Wales’ half backs was not of the same standard as England’s.

These two differences are nicely highlighted in England’s first try (see video below). Note that Watson doesn’t break stride on his chase and he gets to where the ball lands just in time to help palm it back to the England side. Care’s kick is superb.

The clip also answers the question as to where had Wales’ right wing, Josh Adams gone in the lead up to the try; the answer is followed Patchell in to the catching area and towards the ball, rather than moving back to his wing (see Adams in the yellow circle below).

josh adams.jpg

Farrell’s kick for May was made with pin point accuracy but credit should also go to Care and Watson for making complicated skills look easy.

Here’s another example of accurate England kicking.  There are 72 minutes on the clock when Owen Farrell – faced with a wall of Wales’ defenders puts up this high kick.

The kick is not only the perfect distance but is also lands close enough to the touchline that Anscombe can be easily pushed over it. Given England were protecting a lead at this stage of the game this was an excellent decision from Farrell, executed perfectly.

Taking chances

Wales missed a number of chances to put pressure on England that may have subsequently resulted in points from a penalty or try. Here are a few of them.

1 minute: Gareth Anscombe grubber kick

Wales move the ball well to their left side and Anscombe has a large space to put the ball in to (see below).

Steff Evans may not have regained the ball following an accurate kick but at the least Wales should have had a scrum or lineout on England’s tryline.  Anscombe’s kick was far too long and went over the tryline where Ford picked it up.

32 minutes: Turn down kick at goal

Wales win a kick in front of the posts just beyond England’s 10m line. They kick for the corner rather than attempt a penalty attempt but after 9 phases they loose the ball in contact.

On a wet and windy day why turn down the opportunity of 3 fairly easy points?

47 minutes: Shingler break

This is a stunning break by Aaron Shingler following a rare defensive lapse by Maro Itoje, but Shingler should have made a pass to his Scarlets’ team mate Gareth Davies who had worked hard to support him.

A pass to Davies (see image below), may not have directly led to a try but with good recycled ball the opportunities for a try or penalty would have materialised.

shingler.jpg

72 minutes: North misses inside pass

 

Efficient England or a missed opportunity for Wales

Both teams struggled to impose themselves in this game.

England’s kicking, especially in the 1st half was arguably the deciding factor in the match but in the 2nd half they reverted to diagonal kicks to the corner to try and pin Wales back. Some may deem this smart play but our view is that this was the opportunity to keep the ball in hand and put pressure through Wales that way.

England failed to take the initiative and be positive and this allowed Wales to put their own stamp on the game and bring them to just a score away from victory.

Wales also deserve criticism. They abandoned what had served them well last week until 20 minutes from the end when they decided to keep the ball rather than kick it. All of a sudden the game turned and now it was England having to defend, with Anscombe making probing runs and Underhill being forced to make an excellent last ditch tackle to keep Wales out.

This was a game that England deserved to win, but if Wales had trusted their ball handling skills earlier in the game the outcome may have been different.

 

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England – Wales preview: Wales’ blitz against England’s loop

Once Eddie Jones has stopped his regular diatribes a game of rugby will break out this afternoon at Twickenham.  In their opening 6 Nations games both Wales and England showed variety and intent in their attacking play, so today’s encounter could be a classic (weather permitting).

An area of particular importance that may determine who is the victor, is the fight for space in the channel between the outside centre and the wing.

In last week’s game England created two of their tries through attacking this space, while a characteristic of Wales’ defensive alignment in the Sean Edward’s era is the outside centre rushes up to cut out the wide pass. Who will win this battle for space?

 

England’s attack

Using Watson’s 2nd try against Italy we see how England make space through looping players, decoy runners fixing the defence and the blind side winger joining the attack.

Watson’s first try in the Italy game was almost a carbon copy of this move but both tries show the same characteristics Wales will need to be aware of; a loop from Ford, a midfield runner fixing the Italian defence and May hitting the line in an arc from the blind side wing.

The still below shows May (highlighted in yellow) following the arc from his wing, Ford has given an early pass to Farrell and T’eo is lining up to provide the decoy on the straight run.

eng 4.jpg

As we move the footage on we can see T’eo’s angle of run (yellow arrow) and the loop by Ford cause the Italian defence to remain narrow. The still below shows that both centres are now facing inwards with the outside centre a good metre or so behind his colleague.

This is the point where we should highlight poor Italian defence and not just applaud effective English attacking plays.

Against better defensive teams like Wales, who will blitz the midfield and push their outside centre a metre or so beyond the inside centre to cut off the wider ball, England may have to play a variation on this play or they could find May isolated behind the gain line as he hits the 13 channel.

eng 5

This simple loop and some poor Italian defence results in a 3 on 2 situation (see below) which England exploit through May running a line through a static defence.

eng 6.jpg

 

Wales’ Defence

As mentioned above, England will encounter a very different approach when they face the Welsh midfield as Wales have traditionally pushed their 13 in front of the 10 and 12 to stop the ball being played wider.

Under Jonathan Davies this was a very successful tactic but with the Lions’ star now injured and Scott Williams now playing in a largely unfamiliar 13 role, there are some question marks about how effective the Welsh midfield defence will be.

This still (below) is taken from the Wales – England 6 Nations fixture last season. It shows the Welsh midfield trio (including Jon Davies) pushing as a single line with the outside centre creating the umbrella shape to cut off the outside channels.

Note that we can still see some of the traditional England back line patterns mentioned above, with the blind side wing looking to attack, the open side wing holding his width and plenty of options for Ford at 10.

fox pish 1

If we then look at Rieko Ioane’s break in the Wales – New Zealand Autumn fixture and look at the shape of the midfield defence in the lead up to the break, we see a completely different shape to the one in the England game.

nz defebce 1

This time it’s Biggar who is the most advanced of the 3, with Scott Williams (playing at 13) about 2 metres behind him (contrast that with Jon Davies’ position in the England example). If we move the picture on another second the alignment becomes even worse (see below).

defence 2.jpg

Biggar is now directly infront of Owen Williams at 12, while all 3 players cover a lateral area of about 4 metres. Scott Williams, who is usually a 12, hasn’t pushed up and by the time he does push up the pass has been made to Ioane coming in the channel between 13 and the wing.

Ioane then goes on to make a 40 metre break.

 

How will it play out?

This will be a key aspect of the game.

In the last few encounters Wales’ ability to press the English midfield and hit the ball carriers behind the gain line has been a source of success. The problem Wales face today is that Jon Davies isn’t playing, which means Scott Williams needs to be as effective as his Scarlets’ colleague in pushing the line and making the hit.

In the game against Scotland Scott Williams made a couple of soft tackles and his tendency to try and rip the ball as the first tackler (rather than being the 2nd man in the tackle) could expose him when the likes of May and Ford loop around the midfield.

 

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A Tale of Two Rucks – why rugby can be so frustrating to watch

Here are two virtually identical clips from the opening weekend’s action in the 6 Nations. Both incidents resulted in the referee blowing his whistle for a penalty but can you guess which side was penalised?

Clip 1: Wales v Scotland

 

Clip 2: France v Ireland

 

In both examples the tackler is brought to ground and the first man in (Stander in the Ireland game and Barclay for Scotland) spiders on to his hands and then attacks the ball.

Barclay was penalised by referee Pascal Gauzere with Leigh Halfpenny kicking the 3 point penalty, while CJ Stander won the penalty from Nigel Owens as he adjudged the French carrier was holding on.

The question therefore is how can two of the best referees in the world come to different conclusions from what is effectively the same infringement?

There are a couple of possible explanations.

 

(1) The referees don’t see what we can see through the TV footage

As TV viewers, we can sometimes be at an advantage over referees in that our angle of viewing may provide a clearer picture of what is going on.  The TV cameras are fairly high and we often don’t have to look through players to see what is going on.

If we look at the Barclay penalty we can see Gauzere’s legs come in to shot at the top of the picture as he moves towards the Welsh side of tackle. He has a good view of Barclay’s hand positions from a slight angle to the ruck.

In the Stander example we can just see Owen’s white boots on the edge of the picture, which shows he  is on the French side of the ruck and perhaps has his view of Stander obscured by the other bodies on the floor.

stander 1

By the time he runs around to this side of the ruck he has missed the initial hands on the floor and sees Stander with his hands on the ball (albeit still not supporting his body weight).

If there is one criticism to make of Owens in this position is that he doesn’t use Stander’s body position as an indicator that he isn’t supporting his own body weight.  Try copying Standers body position in the image above, with your head about 10 inches off the floor a metre in front of your feet. It’s impossible.

 

(2) The referees see what we see but do not view the incident in the same way

In this permutation the referees clearly see what we see, but their view on whether this is an infringement or not differs. There are lots of examples of referees at the top level allowing players to flop off their feet over the ball, even when they have a clear view.

This image is from the recent Racing92 v Munster game. Andrew Conway makes a half break and just look at the body position the Racing92 jackal makes.

cloete

The referee (yellow shirt at the bottom of the screen) has a great view of the incident but allows it.

Why the referee would allow it is the million dollar question. When the Stander incident was posted on Twitter some people commented that it was down to the referee’s interpretation.

There are two aspects to the concept of “interpretation”.  What it shouldn’t mean is that referees are free to decide how the laws are written and how they should be applied; the laws around the jackal supporting weight at the breakdown are clear – there is no room for “interpretation”.

The second definition of interpretation is that referees will come to different conclusions where they are being asked to make a judgement (often in a split second). In this example, it would mean there are referees who would have a different judgement on whether a jackal was supporting his body weight.

This second definition of “interpretation” is valid but in the examples already mentioned above it is clear that the jackal is off his feet. This isn’t a matter for interpretation.

 

Does it matter?

If your view is that ultimately rugby is entertainment, then the answer is probably no, it doesn’t matter. These sorts of technical issues are irrelevant to building up an audience and ensuring rugby thrives.

The contrary view is that rugby is now a professional sport with livelihoods at stake. In a game as close as the France-Ireland one, a penalty can be the difference between a team winning and losing.

We therefore need to make sure these decisions are accurate and consistent. To achieve this we probably need to give more help to referees at the professional level.

 

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6 Nations Review: Finding Space – the Welsh & English Way

The opening weekend of the 2018 6 Nations wasn’t short of good attacking play, in particular from Wales and England.

In this article we will look at 2 ways of finding space on the rugby field which were in evidence on the weekend, both of which use pace and movement as the key to breaking the gain line, rather than brute power.

 

The Welsh Way

Get the ball wide and in to space regardless of where you are on the pitch, especially off turnovers.

Example 1: Steff Evans try

With 72 minutes on the clock Finn Russell summed up his performance by passing the ball to the reserve Wales scrum half Aled Davies.

As soon as the ball was then made available after the ensuing ruck, you could see that Wales had one objective – which was to get the ball to the opposite wing as quickly as possible. That’s where the space would be.

Wales teams of the recent past would probably have looked for a forward to try and make a burst close to the ruck and the space would have been filled. This new Welsh approach has an emphasis on not taking contact, or if there is contact move the ball on as fast as possible, as shown by Aaron Shingler’s pass to Josh Navidi and the subsequent wide passes.

The image below shows clearly where the space is on the pitch. The half of the pitch where the initial ruck formed is filled with 8 Scottish defenders, whereas the top half of the pitch has just 3 Scottish players defending a lot of open grass.

wales 1.jpg

Example 2:  Rhys Patchell chip

With 22 minutes gone and Scotland already 14-0 down, they try some speculative passes under pressure which leads to a misplaced pass and Cory Hill picking the ball up on the deck.

The default options in recent seasons would have probably been a forward drive, an up and under to contest or a kick from the scrum half to win territory. Now, the players seem confident to move the ball wide, look for space and if there is none, then resort to another option to continue to pressurise the opposition.

 

Example 3: The Scarlets!

If you have wondered where you have seen this style of rugby before, it may have been when you were watching the Scarlets.  Under Wayne Pivac the west Walians have been very comfortable moving the ball wide, even in their own 22 if the space is available.

Here is a clip from the 2017 Pro12 final.

It looks like very simple rugby, but it relies on forwards to have the confidence to trust their handling skills and move the ball on under pressure.

 

The English Way

Two examples of how England made space through looping players, decoy runners fixing the defence and the blind side winger joining the attack.

Example 1: Watson try

England win a shortened lineout and the ball is spread to T’eo who drives in to the Italian midfield. The ball is then moved wide where Watson has a clear run in to the try line.

Let’s stop the action as the ball is spread from the midfield following T’eo’s charge.

eng 1

As Ford takes the ball we can see that the Italian defence has realigned quite effectively. The Italian full back is just out of picture at the bottom of the screen but we can see that each English player is covered by his opposite number.

Passing the ball along the line to the winger would be unlikely to break the Italian defence  but England do 2 very clever things to create the numerical advantage and give Watson the space.

We have ringed Jonny May in yellow in the image above – watch his movement in the gif below and also keep an eye on George Ford.

Let’s slow it down to try and identify May and Ford’s movement.

The still below shows that Mike Brown (yellow line) runs a straight line towards Farrell, which fixes the two Italian defenders who are expecting Brown to take the ball.

Behind Farrell we see Ford has looped around and May has also taken a wide arcing run (red lines). Watson keeps his width knowing that Ford and May are going to hit the space between Brown and himself.

eng 2.jpg

The ball is then played from Farrell to Ford (see image below).

eng 3.jpg

The Italian wing reads the play and tackles Ford but it’s May’s work in tracking across from his wing that creates that extra man – helped a little by Brown making sure his opposite number is taken out of the game!

The Italian full back tackles May but he can then slip a simple pass to Watson who is the spare man.

A clever move which uses 2 players to create an extra man and give Watson a relatively simple run in.

Example 2: Watson 2nd try

This move isn’t quite a carbon copy of the first example but the 3 key elements we saw in the first Watson try are visible again; a loop from Ford, a midfield runner fixing the Italian defence and May hitting the line in an arc from the blind side wing.

The still below shows May (highlighted in yellow) following the arc from his wing, Ford has given an early pass to Farrell and T’eo is lining up to provide the decoy on the straight run.

eng 4.jpg

As we move the footage on we can see T’eo’s angle of run (yellow arrow) and the loop by Ford cause the Italian defence to remain narrow. The still below shows that both centres are now facing inwards with the outside centre a good metre or so behind his colleague.

This is the point where we should highlight poor Italian defence and not just applaud effective English attacking plays.

Against better defensive teams like Wales, who will blitz the midfield and push their outside centre a metre or so beyond the inside centre to cut off the wider ball, England may have to play a variation on this play or they could find May isolated behind the gain line as he hits the 13 channel.

eng 5

This simple loop and some poor Italian defence results in a 3 on 2 situation (see below) which England exploit through May running a line through a static defence.

eng 6.jpg

 

These examples from the Wales and England games also highlight how northern hemisphere rugby has evolved over the last couple of years, with teams now having the skills to execute moves that rely on good handling and pace and not just rely on the power game.

 

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Wales’ 6 Nations’ Squads – Player Contribution by Region (2004 – 2018)

It’s nearly that time of year again, when rugby moves from being a minority sport to one where your butcher and gran have a strong view on who should be starting the opening fixture – it’s 6 Nations time!

One aspect of the Wales squad announcement that is always interesting to monitor is the relative contribution of players from each of the regions and from overseas teams. It gives us a view of the changing strengths of each region and the competing financial pull from the French and English teams.

We now know the 39 players chosen in Warren Gatland’s squad, so this is what the data shows us.

 

Contribution for each year by region

The left hand Y axis shows the number  of players in the initial 6 Nations squad.

wales squad by region 2018

If we now express this same data as a percentage of the total squad size, as opposed to a absolute number of players, we get the following graph (the raw numbers are at the bottom of this article):

wales by regions as %

What do the graphs show us? Well, there are a few obvious things to pick out:

  • The squad size has varied greatly over the past 15 seasons
  • After a brief peak around 2006 the numbers of players in non-Welsh regions steadily increased until 2016 and has dropped slightly since that peak
  • The Dragons have consistently contributed the fewest players of all the Welsh regions over the period
  • The Ospreys have supplied more players for each squad than any other region over the period
  • This season’s Scarlets’ contingent is their highest ever contribution by a full 3 players; it is also the first time they have been the biggest contributor since 2014

Looking at some of these findings in a bit more detail:

 

Squad size

Over the period we have analysed the squad size has varied from 39 to just 28, although the trend seems to be for bigger squads. This year’s squad (39) is so large due to a number of fitness question marks over key players.

squad size 2018

 

Contributions from England and France

As the first graph showed, the general trend over the analysis period is for more players from outside Wales to be picked in the Wales 6 Nations squad. If we break this number down in to its two categories – England and France, we get the following distribution:

overseas contribution to wales squad 2018

The contribution from England is at it’s historical high but there is no representation from France for the first time since 2011. Although Rhys Webb is contracted to join Toulon next season, the new “60 cap” rule will mean he should be ineligible to be chosen for Wales.

It will be interesting to see how the new “60 cap” rule effects the number of Welsh players in England France. Those under the cap threshold may have an incentive in remaining (or returning) to play in Wales but the more experienced players could leave in greater numbers.

 

Contribution by Welsh region

Which regions have contributed the most players over the period? The Scarlets have now jumped above Cardiff for 2nd place in the table but both are still a considerable distance behind the Ospreys.

total %

If we average this out for each season they have been in existence we get something for the Celtic Warriors fans!

average 2018 contribution

 

And finally, which team has been the top contributing region for any one 6 Nations’ season?

2018

 

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Players from each region as a % of total squad size for each 6 Nations.

players as %