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TryTracker pits England scrum against Irish lineout

20 February 2014

  • IBM TryTracker puts emphasis on England's destructive scrummaging
  • Ireland's lineout pinpointed as another crucial aspect

England got their 2014 RBS 6 Nations campaign back on track at Murrayfield with a comprehensive 20-0 victory that was never in doubt. Despite a dreadful surface in Edinburgh, the visitors made nine line-breaks – soaring past TryTracker’s target of four – and forced 14 turnovers to meet another of their Keys to the Game. Accurate defence and a solid set piece meant Scotland could not achieve any of theirs.

Returning to Twickenham for the first of a pair of home games that will define their Championship, England now face Ireland. Joe Schmidt’s charges decimated Wales in Dublin with a harrying performance built on immense intensity at the breakdown and cool game management from fly half Johnny Sexton. On Stuart Lancaster’s side lie in the way of a Triple Crown. It should be a cracker at HQ.

IBM’s Predictive Analytics software analyses historic and current rugby data provided by Opta, the world’s leading sports data provider, to provide valuable in-game stats. It gives viewers access to insights that will heighten their understanding of what to watch for in each game and explains what needs to be done to increase the likelihood of a team win against specific opponents.

The IBM TryTracker includes the ‘Keys to the Game’, which predict three crucial areas of performance specific to each team ahead of match day. If a side hits their target in these aspects of their game they will significantly increase their chances of victory. The data collected and provided by Opta for all England internationals is analysed by IBM, before being hosted on RFU.com.

England keys

  • Complete at least 93 per cent of tackles
  • Average 3.2 metres per carry in the forwards
  • Force a penalty from 35 per cent of own scrums
Tom Wood

Photo: Getty Images

However blunt the opposition attack, England defence guru Andy Farrell would have been satisfied with keeping Scotland to nil at Murrayfield – the first time they had failed to register a point in the fixture since 1978. Missing just 11 tackles and making 100 more, the visitors were accurate and well-organised in Edinburgh. The trickery of Brian O’Driscoll and the power of Cian Healy will pose more problems, though. To keep their success rate at 93 per cent, Chris Robshaw’s charges have to add concentration to immense endeavour.

Billy Vunipola was in typically marauding form north of the border, backing up an excellent showing against France with more careering charges over the gainline. The 21 year-old Saracen’s work-rate was evident in a total of 16 carries, a 58-metre return reinforcing his effectiveness. Locks Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes will add to their No.8’s effort with ball in hand. Should that dynamic pair replicate their recent displays on Saturday, England’s pack will approach IBM’s benchmark of 3.2 metres per carry.

Finally, TryTracker has earmarked the hosts’ scrum as a pivotal facet of this weekend’s Anglo-Irish clash. Though Leicester Tigers tight head Dan Cole – the cornerstone of England’s pack throughout Stuart Lancaster’s tenure – has been ruled out with a neck problem, Bath Rugby prop David Wilson is a fine replacement. He brings 32 Test caps worth of experience and will be confident of causing Healy some trouble at set-piece. Dylan Hartley and Joe Marler have been looking sturdy too, and could well find enough ascendancy to eke penalties from South African referee Craig Joubert.

Ireland keys

  • Have at least seven attempts on goal
  • Average 7.3 metres per carry in the backs
  • Win more than 89 per cent of lineouts on own throw
Devin Toner

Photo: Getty Images

It would be no exaggeration to say that Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony has been the most influential player in the RBS 6 Nations to date. Intelligence and strength in the tackle area have seen him plunder a host of ruck penalties for his side and – should England linger in possession inside their own half – the Munsterman could create some opportunities for his fly half Johnny Sexton. According to IBM TryTracker, the Joe Schmidt’s side are likely to seal the Triple Crown if their number 10 has seven attempts on goal.

Despite some characteristic spark from full back Rob Kearney, a majestic break from Sexton against Scotland and admirable perseverance from Ulster wing Andrew Trimble, Ireland’s backline has been overshadowed by their forwards. On Twickenham’s pristine surface, O’Driscoll and co. must be clinical with ball in hand. Veteran Gordan D’Arcy at inside centre will be under the microscope more than most, and his tussle on the gainline with Billy Twelvetrees may prove pivotal in whether Ireland’s backs manage an average of over 7.3 metres per carry.

Lastly, we come to the weapon that could well conquer Twickenham. With Devin Toner and talisman Paul O’Connell calling the shots, Ireland’s lineout has been majestic. Rory Best’s dead-eye throwing contributed to an excellent success rate of just over 94 per cent from 16 lineouts during the 26-3 defeat of Wales, and the ensuing driving mauls caused complete havoc. Having worked tirelessly in training to defend and disrupt the Irish throw, England will scrap to keep Best’s return below TryTracker’s target of 89.1 per cent.