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Tale of the tape: England vs Scotland

06 February 2013

  • What do the stats tell us about England's victory over Scotland
  • sits down with England analysts Mike Hughes and Duncan Locke
England Analysts Duncan Locke (L) and Mike Hughes

Photo: Getty Images

The score line is the only statistic that matters, evidenced by the fact that England captain Chris Robshaw was the man lifting the Calcutta Cup after the 38-18 defeat of Scotland in the RBS 6 Nations opener at Twickenham Stadium. But more detailed analysis can also provide a view on the game so called on the unique insight of the people who supply the England coaches with in-game data, analysts Michael Hughes and Duncan Locke, to see what other stories the match stats have to tell.

This is what they had to say:

“England’s attack had a real intent about it and a couple of features of the overall game stats show that. Of our 56 possessions, only 32 per cent were kicked away, which is evidence of purposeful attacking with ball in hand.

England topped the possession (60 per cent) and territory (68 per cent) stats but a marked sign of the pressure applied on Scotland is the amount of game time in the opposition 22 or Red Zone. In a match where the ball was in play for 38 minutes 48 seconds, we spent 7 minutes 22 seconds in their 22.

England flanker Tom Wood, who hit 45 breakdowns, on the run against Scotland

Photo: Getty Images

One of the challenges going into this game was to maintain the intensity at the breakdown shown in the win over New Zealand in the different environment of the Six Nations. England averaged a ruck speed of less than four seconds on Saturday, something not achieved in any of the autumn games, and from that quick ball Ben Youngs was able to deliver two scoring passes.

There were some fine individual breakdown attendance stats too: flanker Tom Wood topped the charts for the second game in a row with a whopping 45, while Chris Robshaw, Geoff Parling and Joe Launchbury all hit 36.

Wood was also the top tackler, with 16, while Parling, who grabbed five of England’s 12 successful line outs (operating at 92 per cent), made 13 and Dan Cole 11. England’s defence only conceded three line breaks in the game. Also, remarkably, over the 80 minutes England only conceded seven penalties (one on defence), which is outstanding discipline.

England fly half Owen Farrell, who kicked 18 points, lines up a penalty against Scotland

Photo: Getty Images

Robshaw was England’s top carrier in the game, with taking the ball into contact an impressive 18 times, especially keeping good width in wide areas. As well as a great line for his try on debut, Billy Twelvetrees carried the ball 12 times and showed intelligent distribution. Tellingly, those outside him were also big influencers on the game, with Brad Barritt making 14 carries, Mike Brown making 12 carries and Chris Ashton making 11 carries.

Owen Farrell maintain his superb kicking form from the All Blacks win, slotting four of four penalties and three of four conversions for 18 points. With the quick ball delivered by the forwards as outlined above, he was able to attack the line. As well as making 10 tackles he was critically involved in two tries, in very different ways: clearing out giant Scotland lock Richie Gray for Chris Ashton’s opener and throwing the long, cut out pass which isolated three defenders for Parling’s try.

Stuart Lancaster also puts much emphasis on the impact of the bench, with the outcome of close matches often determined in the final quarter. Danny Care maintained our ruck speed and popped up with a try in the last minute, while James Haskell racked up some good numbers during his 35 minutes on the field: making 10 tackles (joint fourth overall), hitting 16 breakdowns and making six carries.”