Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Just The Facts

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The dust has settled following the France game but way off in the distance the faint rumble of another stampede of opinion can be felt as we approach the Ireland match. Before, during and immediately after the game the crowd will be in full flow as bodies jostle for position and each voice tries to shout its views louder than everyone else around them. Regardless of the result on Saturday some will cry for Andy Robinson’s head, saying Scotland have yet again shown little promise whilst others will scour the game’s carcass, looking for evidence that the team are heading in the right direction.

I’d like to take this moment of quiet contemplation before we get bogged down in team announcements and speculation to get geeky with you, and talk about numbers.

Forget about the fact that we’ve lost to England (2.5 million registered players to our 38,500), Wales (World Cup Semi-Finalists) and France (World Cup Runners-up).

In fact forget we’ve scored any tries. Tries don’t really matter. The average number of tries scored per game in the 6 Nations has dropped from 4.7 in 2005 to 3.2 in 2010 and 1.7 in 2011.

Let’s look beyond the results and the points scored and look at what progress, if any, Scotland have made under Andy Robinson in terms of how the team is performing.

To do this I’ve taken Scotland’s last three results under Robinson and compared them with the team’s last three results under Frank Hadden. In terms of win percentage Hadden’s clearly ahead on 33% to Robinson’s 0%, but we’re not looking at that, remember.

In the interests of fairness I’ve calculated all of my statistical averages using the official RBS 6 Nations match statistics available from their website. This doesn’t mean they’re correct, just consistent in the way they’re measured and so comparable.

Average in 3 games Hadden Robinson
Passes made 136.7 234.7
Possession kicked 30 18.7
Tackles made 112.3 86.7
Opposition tackles made 84.3 154
Line breaks 2.3 4.7
Errors 13.7 12
Minutes in possession 25:18 33:44
Opp mins in possession 35:20 25:39
Ball won in opp’s 22 5 35

Interesting reading. In fact I’m not going to go any further at this point. I think the stats speak for themselves.

What do you think? Is this progress?

15 Responses

  1. An insurance rep once upon a time said – “Statistics, Statistics and damned lies” yes, these indicators show we are making progress but we are making progress at a slower rate than other leading rugby playing TEAMS. How do you measure TEAM success – by WINNING of course and our success rate under our respective coaches/managers has not been very good. I note that we are turning to an Aussie to help with the Scottish XV – I think he will be amazed at these statistics but will contend that the only measure of success is WINNING. Let’s hope he can instil that mentality into the players psyche.

  2. Kev – I think uselessborderer is referring to Scott Johnson.

    uslessborderer – I don’t disagree that wins are a marker of success but this doesn’t happen overnight. I’d much rather be loosing in the manner we are now (where we’re threatening the try line and playing exciting rugby) than loosing and only scoring from the boot without ever going anywhere near the oppossition 22.

    It’s also worth remembering that we regularly punch above our weight. Tom Fordyce wrote an interestnig piece for the BBC before the Calcutta Cup which shows that in terms of resources etc. Scotland don’t do too badly

    I think the stats show a work in progress and so long as Robinson is allowed to continue the wins will come. What was interesting to see is that the number of errors haven’t reduced and I think this is probably what’s stopping us turning good stats into wins. Cut down the errors and the hard work starts paying off.

  3. As the ‘great’ Ebbe Skovdhal once said – “Statistics are like mini skirts, they are fine to look at but they hide the important things!”

    Robinson will ultimately be judged on results but in the meantime most folk can see that this is a team in transition. He should be given the rest of the 6 Nations, the summer tour and Autumn internationals to try and turn performances into results. If he can’t do this then it might be time to look at his position but at present there would be little point.

  4. The statistics are no surprise we’re clearly getting better and have improved in every match during the Six Nations this year. This has been helped by certain changes in the team during the tournament, particularly at fly half, scrum half and full back, two of which were enforced. Those changes together with the form of Gray, Rennie and Denton has given the team some momentum going forward.
    Big Al is right, give AR a bit longer, as long as the improvement continues. He must, however, take a critical look at his loyalty to long standing players when there are better players coming through. As an example, I think Jacobsen is giving away too many penalties, is not that outstanding as a scrummager and probably won’t be around for the next World Cup; time to give Welsh a chance. Forty years ago my Dad told me that it was harder to get out of the Scottish team than to get into it, sometimes still applies today!

  5. Kev – is brilliant!!! Most read blogger around – please see the Scotsman headlines or are you telling me that a Scotsman has been coaching Queensland Reds and the SRU did not know about this!!!
    Cameron – how long have we been in the doldrums, this season only or the past “X” number of years. When did we last win the Triple Crown or the Five or Six Nations – unfortunately a long time ago or never. Yes we have limited resources and do undoubtedly punch above our weight (then the press have us as world champs as a result)but we need to play as a TEAM – not 15 individuals and operate as a team, with constant support and back up for each other and not dawdling along to the next breakdown. High tempo game with forwards who can run with the ball and cross the gain line and supported by backs who can tackle – did you notice how Jonathan Sexton played for Ireland and the way he tackled and held forwards upright. A good lesson for us.

    1. You’re right when you say we’ve been in the doldrums for years (although we’re still reigning 5 nations champions – technically) but then again tell me when Scotland have ever put together a side that regularly and consistently challenged for honours? During the amateur era we’re probably talking once every 4-5 years and in the professional era probably once or twice in total.
      The problems with the National side go far beyond performances in internationals and the blame can’t be lain solely at Andy Robinson’s door. There’s been a lack of investment from the SRU in grassroots rugby, a lack of a 3rd or 4th pro side bringing through and developing young players and a lack of any sort of youth development at all (unlike French and Wales with their Academy systems).
      We seem to have reached a turning point however. The Pro sides are performing well, attendances and interest in rugby is up, the SRU are investing in development officers and we have good young players coming through the ranks.
      Harnessing this and turning Scotland into a side that competes for honours consistently will take time. It’s not going to happen overnight.

  6. uselessborderer…I am saying that Matt Taylor MUST be Scottish because he has played rugby for Scotland A. Exactly the same as Nathan Hines and Dan Parks are Scottish having played rugby for Scotland. I’m sure the SRU would know about Matt Taylor as they have been his employer in the past and may have been asked to provide a reference. And presumably you used to nip over to Netherdale when he plyed his trade for the Borders Pro team?

  7. Heres the stats from Scotland’s 6 N
    vs Wales
    Wales: 44%
    Scotland: 56%
    It actually seemed like Scots were able to keep ball away from Welsh for longer than this.
    Passes completed;
    Wales: 154
    Scotland: 254
    Ruck and drive v Ruck and pass:
    Wales: 8 – 60
    Scotland: 27 – 111
    Ball won in open play – in opposition 22 – in set pieces – in turnovers:
    Wales: 69 – 34 – 22 – 3
    Scotland: 140 – 35 – 23 – 1
    You’d have to surmise that the Scots were on top of this game based on the above stats. And you’d be right. The Scots have a great platform in their forwards.
    The problem was that even though they passed the ball far more than Wales it was rarely wide into space.
    Robinson. Unadventurous rubbish.

    vs England
    Some of the embarrassing stats
    Scots in opponents 22 metres, 33 times vs 8 for England.

    Stuart Lancaster’s team also missed 16 tackles which makes one wonder just how Scotland conspired to lose…
    Least tackles missed: Scotland – 2
    Minutes in possession:
    Scotland: 35mins, 33 sec
    England: 23mins, 35 sec
    Minutes in opponents half (total):
    Scotland: 48mins, 16 sec
    England: 37, 40 sec
    Ball won in open play – in opposition 22 – in set pieces – in turnovers:
    Scotland: 118 – 33 – 32 – 4
    England: 46 – 8 – 23

    Scotland completed a whopping 238 passes compared to England poultry 72. However, after passing, most times someone decided to run straight at opponent.
    England were hopeless. They had the ball just 36% of the game and kicked away possession 27 times.

    Scotland vs France
    Scotland 55%
    France 45%

    Scotland 54%
    France 46%
    Passes completed:
    Scotland: 212
    France: 137
    Ball won in open play – in opposition 22 – in set pieces – in turnovers:
    Scotland: 108 – 37 – 16 – 6
    France: 77 – 14 – 24 – 6

  8. I’m English and I’m amazed that you Scots are being so nice to Mr. Robinson, another Englishman. His record is abysmal. He blames the players and even has the arrogance to suggest that there is no one else to coach Scotland.
    Grab John Kirwan immediately. The fools in charge of England passed him over. What a remarkable job he did with Japan.
    Anyway, we figured you Scots would have caught on by now. We got rid of Robinson because he had a crap record with England. We made up some excuse and you guys bought it.
    Look at the above stats from 6N if you didn’t believe your eyes at World Cup where I thought you were going to lose to Georgia and Romania.
    You’ve got very good experienced players. You should be winning. Sadly, the parts are better than the whole and that is the fault of the coach. I can’t believe you’ve invited Scott Johnson to help, as he’s another coach, who lately has the uncanny knack of making good players look ordinary.
    Wake up Scotland, the rugby community needs a strong National team that wins.

  9. One other point. Some of you are arguing that you lack the numbers to compete. Then how come Scotland A spanked England Saxons 35-0?

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion