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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 22 October, 2014

The most notable stats from the opening weekend of Six Nations rugby

Here are some of the more interesting figures after wins for France, Ireland and Wales in round one.

Healy was effective for Ireland with ball in hand.
Healy was effective for Ireland with ball in hand.
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

WALES, IRELAND AND France opened their Six Nations campaigns with victory last weekend, while England, Italy and Scotland prepare for round two with losses driving them on.

The encounter in Paris was the highlight in terms of sheer entertainment, but there were moments of attacking excellence in Cardiff and Dublin too. The reviews will have been completed by now, and focus will be firmly forward.

Here, we look at some of the statistics that each side will look to maintain or improve upon.

Ireland

  • 14 turnovers conceded. Joe Schmidt’s men gave away possession exactly the same amount of times as the Scots did, despite the impression being that Ireland had stolen more ball. Ruck security is a priority against the poaching threat of Sam Warburton this weekend.
  • 100% scrums won. There were only four attacking scrums for Ireland, but they were carried out admirably. Martin Moore and Jack McGrath provide genuine strength off the bench. Wales will definitely present a greater test in this area, so Ireland will need to be sharp.
  • 7 penalties conceded. Only France [4] conceded fewer penalties in round one, and Schmidt will insist that his men maintain a clean approach. Leigh Halfpenny is among the finest place-kickers in world rugby and will happily punish any infringements inside Ireland’s half.
  • 11 carries. Cian Healy made 35 metres over the course of those 11 runs, stepping up to the mark with Sean O’Brien absent. Against the powerful Welsh, Ireland will need a repeat from their world-class loosehead prop.

France

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Louis Picamoles was vital in the French effort against England. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.

  • 10 clean line breaks. Reading the squad lists before the tournament even began, it was obvious that the French possessed some of the most exciting individual running talent. Yoann Huget alone contributed three, while Yannick Nyanga cut the line twice.
  • 27 missed tackles. France led the way in terms of slipping off contact as well as opening up the opposition defence. Individual errors in defence were rife, although this figure is also emblematic of England’s powerful ball carrying.
  • 71 metres gained. Philippe Saint-André’s men had an attacking bludgeon of their own in Louis Picamoles, who accumulated these gains over 12 carries. He is going to be difficult for anyone to halt.

Italy

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Out-half Allan made his Six Nations debut against Wales. ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne.

  • 411 metres gained. The Italians bettered Wales in this area, although it must be pointed out that Michele Campagnaro’s intercept try made much of the difference. Still, for a side that has struggled to advance up the pitch in previous years, there is encouragement.
  • 6 defenders beaten. Despite seeing plenty of the ball, Italy weren’t able to take on and beat opposition defenders with the same regularity as their opponents [Wales beat 17 defenders]. Jacques Brunel needs big plays more often from his best ball carriers.
  • 50% kicking success. Tommaso Allan offered plenty of hope that Italy’s future at out-half is in safe hands with his 10 completed tackles, 16 passes and five carries for 24 metres. However, he needs to take every chance from the tee if Italy are to compete for wins.

Scotland

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Stuart Hogg was a rare bright spark for the Scots. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.

  • 66.7% line-out success. Scott Johnson’s pack lost five line-outs on their own throw in a messy display out of touch. Coupled with a scrum return of two from four, the Scots regularly denied themselves the ideal attacking platforms from which to bring Stuart Hogg into the game.
  • 10 offloads. Picking out positives for Scotland after Sunday’s defeat was not an easy task, but their ability to keep the ball alive in the tackle was noteworthy. Edinburgh had success with an offloading game in their run to the 2012 Heineken Cup semi-finals; is this the way forward?
  • 6 defenders beaten. Hogg managed to beat the same amount of defenders as the entire Italian team did against Wales. Scotland possess one of the best attacking players in the championship in the 21-year-old. Now they must provide him with quality possession.

Wales

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Dan Lydiate [wearing 6] completed all 12 of his tackles, with no misses. ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan.

  • 17 turnovers conceded. Wales were uncharacteristic in coughing up possession regularly against the Italians, something that greatly held back their normally ferocious attacking play. Warren Gatland will stress the need to tighten up against Ireland this weekend.
  • 6 missed tackles. If there is one thing Wales can always rely upon, it is their watertight defence. Their one-on-one and two-on-one tackling is superb, and the closest team to their tally of missed tackles was Ireland with 15.
  • 49 boshing metres. That’s how far Jamie Roberts ran with ball in hand at the Millenium Stadium over the course of 17 carries. The inside centre is Wales’ primary ball carrier and Ireland will need to chop him at the ankles early this weekend.
  • 17 line-outs won. Gatland’s pack are strong out of touch, with Alun-Wyn Jones and Richard Hibbard linking well. The loss of Luke Charteris is a real blow in this department, with the 6ft 4ins Andrew Coombs simply not offering the same line-out quality. Devin Toner and Peter O’Mahony will look for steals on Hibbard’s throw.

England

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Those gigantic legs carried Billy Vunipola over the gainline repeatedly. ©INPHO/Andrew Fosker.

  • 645 metres gained. Stuart Lancaster’s men were a wrecking ball at times in attack against France, with the sheer power of their carriers proving hard to stop. The French themselves were the side who came closest to matching England in this regard [460 metres].
  • 26 tackles missed. Lancaster has rightly focused on improving England’s attacking play and ambition, with the signs being that he is doing a good job in that regard. However, the English cannot afford to let their long-standing solidity fail as that process happens.
  • 60% of scrums won and 86.7% line-out success. Speaking of the above, England’s set-piece faltered at times against the French too, and there is a sense that Lancaster needs to remain focused on the basics, as well as infusing the new attacking and cultural ethos.
  • 46 minutes. That’s the amount of time for which the ball was in play during the clash at the Stade de France, comparing favorably with the 36.01 minutes in the same fixture last year. Indeed, the highest total for any Six Nations game in 2013 was 40.51 minutes. [Thanks to @BriMcS for bringing that figure to our attention.]

- Originally published 14.55.

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