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IBM TryTracker puts onus on England's precocious backline

30 January 2014

  • IBM TryTracker predicts 'Keys to the Game' ahead of England's clash with France
  • Over 13 offloads is a goal for the visitors at the Stade de France

Following its debut during the 2013 RBS 6 Nations, IBM TryTracker formed part of RFU.com’s extensive match coverage during both last June’s historic series victory in Argentina and the 2013 QBE Internationals. It returns this spring for the 2014 RBS 6 Nations, starting with England’s tough trip over The Channel to face Les Bleus at the Stade de France.

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.

France keys

  • Carry 3.2 metres per carry with the forwards
  • Win more than 90% of own scrums
  • Achieve a tackle success rate of over 91%
Yannick Nyanga

Photo: Getty Images

There is absolutely nothing subtle about Phillipe Saint-André’s selection as he looks to avenge the 24-22 defeat to England at this venue back in 2012 – his maiden tournament in charge. Though the loss of talismanic skipper Thierry Dusautoir through injury would be catastrophic to most sides, France’s head coach can call upon Yannick Nyanga, Bernard le Roux and the monstrous Luis Picamoles as a hefty, all-action back row trio. With six forwards on the bench too, there will be no shortage of energy as the hosts look to their pack to average upwards of 3.2 metres per carry over what is sure to be an immensely physical close-quarter contest.

As with any Test match, the set-piece is certain to play a major part in the final outcome and the tournament opener is no different at all. Winning a 67th cap, 33 year-old tighthead Nicolas Mas will be a crucial figure in ensuring scrum stability in front of lock pairing Alexandre Flanquart and stand-in captain Pascal Pape – a sizeable duo. TryTracker has set a figure of 90% as a benchmark here.

Finally, France will need a water-tight defence in order to ward off England – an area where they may well miss Dusautoir, a veritable tackling machine. As Toulouse showed against Saracens in a domineering Heineken Cup win this month, relentless linespeed can completely dismantle even the most ambitious attacks. Everyone knows about Wesley Fofana’s brilliance with ball in hand, but he is also a muscular presence at inside centre who is very difficult to beat. With Les Bleus needing a tackle success rate of over 91%, those qualities are important.

England keys

  • Average 7.7 metres per carry in back-play
  • Have more than eight attempts on goal
  • Offload more than 13 times
Uncapped duo Luther Burrell (L) and Jack Nowell, who will return to Pennyhill Park to prepare for France on Wednesday evening

Photo: Getty Images

England starters Luther Burrell, Jack Nowell and Jonny May have a single cap between them, but will each be required to translate their sparkling domestic form onto the international stage straight away in order for Stuart Lancaster’s backline to hit TryTracker’s goal of just under eight metres per carry. Full back Mike Brown showed his potent counter-attacking prowess during the QBE Internationals, too – more of the same is needed.

Owen Farrell has kicked 25 points in the last two versions of Le Crunch and the young Saracen is likely to prove pivotal once more. But for him to have enough opportunities from the tee, the likes of Chris Robshaw, Tom Wood, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes may have to eke out penalties from a massively competitive tussle at the breakdown.

Lastly, Tryracker has suggested a target of 14 offloads, which should play into Burrell’s hands – for Northampton Saints this season he has demonstrated his innate ability to keep the ball alive in even the most crowded midfields. Equally though, Robshaw and his pack can contribute by shifting the point of contact around the fringes. With Nowell, May and Brown waiting to strike out wide, England’s handling is under the microscope.