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TryTracker urges England to stay strong in defence

19 June 2014

  • IBM TryTracker predicts 'Keys to the Game' ahead of Hamilton Test
  • England's scrum and first-up tackling must be strong against the All Blacks

Following its debut during the 2013 RBS 6 Nations, IBM TryTracker has formed part of’s extensive match coverage. It returns this summer for England's 2014 tour of New Zealand, and presented an accurate preview before last Saturday’s second Test in Dunedin.

Both nations crossed for three tries in a high-scoring encounter that ended with just a single point between the sides, New Zealand prevailing 28-27 to clinch the series and extend their winning run to 16 games. Reflecting how tight the contest was – England led 10-0 after a strong start – each team landed one of their three 'Keys to the Game' as laid out by TryTracker. Graham Rowntree's forwards forced penalties from half of scrums on their own put-in, while the All Blacks beat a phenomenal 32 defenders.

Those Keys remain the same for a third consecutive weekened, and we are surely in for an explosive end to what has been an exhilarating series.

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

New Zealand keys

  • Win at least 90 per cent of own scrums
  • Average 5.8 metres per carry
  • Beat more than 17 defenders


Owen Franks , Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock of New Zealand prepare to scrum

Photo: Getty Images

New Zealand's tight five seemed reinvigorated at Forsyth Barr Stadium and were far more cohesive at set-piece than they were in Auckland seven days previously. However, following a couple of late wobbles after Owen Franks and Tony Woodcock left the field, they returned only 80 per cent of ball on their own put-in. That will not doubt improve once more as the rust is shaken off, and TryTracker's bar remains at 90 per cent.


Despite some sparkling counters, the All Blacks fell short of their target of 5.8 metres per carry last weekend. That said, Kieran Read returns from his concussion troubles to start at No.8 and his loping stride will no doubt push the hosts' average up. An expert at linking up with backs in the wider channels, England will need to shackle the reigning IRB World Player of the Year.

It was New Zealand's clinical, scything attack that won the plaudits following their victory on Saturday and their runners were utterly devastating at times. Determined defence has been a hallmark of Stuart Lancaster's tenure, but his players found it very tough to cope with the All Blacks lethal blend of pace and power out wide. Ma'a Nonu, so in the series opener, was to the fore and racked up eight beaten defenders on his own. Ben Smith weighed in with six, and Andy Farrell will demand higher standards.

England keys

  • Forwards average 3.8 metres per carry
  • Have more than seven attempts on goal
  • Force a penalty at 29 per cent of own scrums
Billy Vunipola carries

Photo: Getty Images

Billy Vunipola had to make do with a 24-minute cameo from the replacements' bench at Forsyth Barr Stadium, but returns to Lancaster's starting lineup this week and will be desperate to make a similar impact on this game as he managed on the encounter between these nations back in November at Twickenham. That day, the young Saracen made 18 carries and caused England's illsutrious opponents some serious trouble. With the tourists in pursuit of an average of 3.8 metres per carry in the forwards, more of the same is required.

A medial knee ligament injury to Owen Farrell hands Freddie Burns his second start of the series and the Leicester Tigers-bound fly half will be confident of building on his display at Eden Park a fortnight ago. Putting a disastrous domestic campaign behind him, he demonstrated exceptional cool to land four kicks under immense pressure without missing one. If England can crowd force infringements out of New Zealand, they have a place-kicker in fine form.

Lastly comes the set-piece, where Rowntree's pack has excelled so far this month. While props David Wilson and Joe Marler did not quite make the same headway in Dunedin as they managed in Auckland the previous week, the performances of deputies Kieran Brookes and Matt Mullan were hugely encouraging. That duo forced two late penalties with a pair of destructive shoves and, with such depth to fall back on, TryTracker's Key – suggesting England must force penalties from over 29 per cent of their own put-ins – is very possible.