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Tale of the tape: France vs England

04 February 2014

  • RFU.com looks at the stats from France vs England with the team analysts
  • Jack Nowell made 14 tackles with no misses and made eight carries on debut
England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster chats to England analyst Duncan Locke at Twickenham

Photo: Getty Images

The score line is the only statistic that matters, evidenced by the bitter disappointment felt by the England squad after the last-gasp 26-24 defeat to France in RBS 6 Nations opener at the Stade de France. But more detailed analysis can also provide a view on the game so RFU.com called on the unique insight of the people analyse the match for the England coaches and provide in-game data, Michael Hughes and Duncan Locke, to see what other stories the match stats have to tell.

This is what they had to say:

"The most startling statistic after the game in Paris was the fact that the ball was in play for 46 minutes, a phenomenal length of time in modern rugby and the longest under Stuart’s tenure. By comparison the ball was “live” for 38 minutes during the end-to-end match against New Zealand last November.

Billy Vunipola swats off the attempted tackle of Yannick Nyanga in Paris

Photo: Getty Images

France’s fast start ultimately undid England as they went 16-3 up in the first quarter. They were clinical in terms of converting six line-breaks into three tries. By comparison, England made eight line-breaks and scored two tries.

The number of possessions each team had was largely similar – England had 61 to France’s 62. But with that possession England had a gainline success rate of 64 per cent compared to France’s 45 per cent.

Billy Vunipola delivered two scoring passes and carried powerfully throughout the game. He made 17 carries, taking 10 over the gainline and dominating his opponent on nine occasions. The other two members of England’s back row, Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood, were also prominent with ball in hand, carrying the ball 13 and 12 times respectively.

A scrum from France vs England at the Stade de France

Photo: Getty Images

In the backs, Mike Brown, in addition to his try, took six of his nine carries over the gainline and Jack Nowell, making his debut aged just 20, carried eight times with six over the gainline.

France’s disciplined approach was a major part in achieving the victory; the hosts conceded only four penalties in comparison to England’s eight. Three of those, resulting in six points, came from the scrum, where France were on top. Although the game’s first scrum wasn’t until the 20th minute, France won seven from seven on their ball, while England won three of five.

The lineout was largely even: France retaining possession 10 times from 11 throws, with England winning the ball 13 times from 15. But England did well in disrupting French ball from the lineout as four were scrappy from strong defensive pressure and one France maul was turned over.

Debutant wing Jack Nowell on the run against France

Photo: Getty Images

Nowell also impressed in defence, making 14 tackles without missing any. Robshaw was the top tackler on 15, with Lawes (13), Wood, Billy Vunipola and Twelvetrees (all 12) close behind. Mako Vunipola, off the bench at loose head on 52 minutes, made 10 tackles. Nowell and Lawes also each forced France to concede three turnovers each.

In terms of contact on the deck, lock Joe Launchbury hit 45 rucks – the most in the team. Dan Cole arrived at 39 breakdowns and stole the opposition ball on two occasions, while Wood hit 36 and Robshaw 35."