Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


A Look At Scott Johnson’s Bikini

Scotland scrum down against Ireland - © Alastair Ross
Scotland scrum down against Ireland - © Alastair Ross

The International Rugby Board has published its annual statistical analysis of the Six Nations. Scott Johnson would have us believe statistics are like bikinis in that it shows a lot but not the whole thing. That may be so but they show enough to give you a good idea of the appeal of what lies beneath.

The report highlights a further drop in the number of tries scored in the tournament. It may be stating the obvious but the 37 tries scored this year is the lowest since the sport turned professional in 1995. The number of penalties scored continues to rise with an average of 6.3 per match being the highest since the Five Nations restarted after the Second World War.

A large part of the report is taken up with analysis of the scrum. There’s a lot of hand wringing in the world of rugby at the moment with many saying something has to be done but a lack of suggestions about what that something might look like. The key message of this report is that it mainly appears to be an issue in games between Tier One nations and mainly one affecting those in the Northern Hemisphere.

The statistics show that England and Wales seem to be trying to win penalties and free kicks from scrums rather than going for possession. Both obtained the ball from their own scrum just 13 times each in the whole tournament but won 37 penalties and free kicks between them. This is contrasted with matches in the 2012 Rugby Championship (the old Tri-Nations) where the scrum was more often a source of possession than points. England and Wales failed to score a try from scrum possession however it produced a total of 47 points for New Zealand and Australia.

The report does not say that England and Wales are deliberately trying to win penalties in this way. The report does not say they are cheating and employing dark arts to con referees. The report merely sets out the facts which are repeated here from which you may reach your own conclusions.

Having said that Scotland were the only other side who failed to score a try from scrum possession but for very different reasons. Scotland had lowest success rate in the scrum only winning 70% on their own put in.

As might be expected the statistics for Scotland are a mixed bag. The team scored five tries from inside their own half (England and Ireland scored none) but seven of the nine tries conceded came in the second half. Scotland had the highest success rate from place kicks but conceded most of their tries by kicking to the opposition (four).

Overall the statistics point to what we all suspected. Scotland were going for territory through the boot. They had the lowest passing rate of any team in the tournament with passing an average of 75 times a match with both Centres making a combined total of only fifteen passes across the whole tournament. They also had the highest kicking rate in open play kicking once for every 30.5 seconds of possession a whole ten seconds behind the next closest team (England).

It wasn’t all bad news at the set piece though with Scotland contesting more line outs than any other side, stealing more ball and scoring three tries. Scotland and Ireland were the only teams not to concede penalties from a throw in.

Scotlands tries came from:

  • 3 from lineout
  • 1 from opposition kick
  • 3 from turnover

Scotland conceded tries:

  • 2 from lineout
  • 1 from scrum
  • 4 from kicking to opposition
  • 2 from turnovers

The pick of the rest of the report doesn’t make for great reading from a Scottish perspective. They had the lowest ruck/maul success rate winning 91% compared with 93% for England and 96% for Wales. They won only 62% of opposition restarts and most of the penalties conceded came from the tackle/ruck (43%) and scrum (31%). Still only two yellow cards but then Nick De Luca was injured.

So there we have it. A full and frank assessment of Scotland’s bikini although a mankini might be a more appropriate analogy in the circumstances. It’s not a pretty sight and only the brave might dare to think about what might lie beneath.

4 Responses

  1. Hmm – I agree our tactics should have been more ambitious but I seem to remember having great stats and few wins for the last few years.

    When we kick we should aim to kick it out not leave the ball in play, but the desire to not lose our own ball in our half is sound. The problem is the players didn’t appear to play with the freedom to inject some variety into their game and test defences when opportunities arose. Whether this was coaching or simply a green team sticking to the script and not using their head, I don’t know.

  2. We need to be far more ambitious- that’ll start at scrum half, and I’d love to see a Blair/Cuss style scrum half emerge to rival Laidlaw who is a solid guy but bloody uninspiring as he kicks away the ball so much.

    I’d like to see us embrace the Toony’s Glasgow game- quick ball, oh oh so quick ball sometimes (the second half usually), ferociously abrasive pack, great scrum.

  3. Playing scrums for penalties/free kicks was a big problem in this Six Nations. If within kickable range, there is little incentive to play for possession. Should the “use it” call for rucks also be applied to scrums when the ball has emerged from the back?

  4. First off great article, made it easy to judge how we really did.

    Definitely agree that we have to play a more ambitious for of play but we also have to play smarter. we need to utilize hogg’s big boot to clear the lines instead of so many poncy box kicks.

    Also 15 passes for both centers combined across 5 games is just disgusting. We won mostly because other teams didn’t take there chances but hopefully under new management we will stop with that 1d game-plan.

    I do feel Laidlaw has to take a lot of responsibility as he probably has the lowest passing percentage of any scrumhalf in history. Needs to learn to pass or learn to sit on the bench.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion