Sports

Sports: The Strangely Predictable Nature of the RWC2015 Quarterfinals

Getting ready for the Quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup? Feeling a little anxious about your team’s chances? Never let it be said that the team at The Spinoff Sports aren’t here to help heighten the tension or assuage the anxiety. Here we present a factual analysis of the quarterfinals, so you don’t have to bother.

Firstly, Here is your guide to every team’s guaranteed quarterfinal Cliché:

NEW ZEALAND “2007”
FRANCE
“2011”
SOUTH AFRICA
“Lost to Japan”
WALES
“Beat England”
IRELAND
“Playing for Paul O’Connell
ARGENTINA
“Love to scrum”
AUSTRALIA
“putting pride back in the jersey”
SCOTLAND
“Brave”

Argentina

Argentina will run the bejesus out of Ireland

Let’s be honest, Ireland’s best player ain’t playing and their captain is out. But take nothing away from the Irish – they have done more chucking of the nut up the jersey than any other team in this competition. The only problem is, they aren’t that creative with all the possession they enjoy, which is the most per game of any team.

Yes, the Irish can throw it around (they have passed more than any other side) and they can kick it (Murray and Sexton are the most active kicking halves combo going) but they rarely break the line and have done so fewer times per game than any other playoff team bar Scotland (no surprise) and France (kind of a surprise).

For their part, the Argentineans, heretofore regarded as a pack of steak-munching forwards with scant regard for electrifying backline play, have positivity lit up the tournament with their metre-eating, rather than meat-eating exploits. No team has made more clean breaks, or metres per game. No team has offloaded as much or beaten as many defenders. And here’s another: Only Japan and Samoa kicked the ball less in play.

Ireland have the best tackle percentage in the tournament, and they have shared the defensive workload this tournament (no player makes the top 25 in tackles made) but no Sean O’Brien making turnovers? It’s a licence for the Pumas to have a go. Which they most certainly will. Because Sexton and Murray will kick them the ball.

Scotland

Greig Laidlaw will need to play the game of his life

I know what you’re thinking: this quarterfinal between Australia and Scotland is about as one sided as an argument with your wife. Australia are certainly heavy favourites here, and with good reason: Scotland aren’t that flash.

Greig Laidlaw controls everything in this team. If he can control the Scotland attack, he just might bore the Australians to death. It’s his only chance. Scotland boast not a single backline player in the top 25 ball runners, metre earners, defender beaters or clean breakers at this tournament. Oh for the return of Chainsaw Laney!

That’s why Laidlaw is key, he has so little to work with he does it all on his own. Significantly he has notched up five try assists this tournament, and ranks second in that department behind one Fourie du Preez.

There are only four teams at Rugby World Cup who posted fewer running metres than Scotland: Georgia, Namibia, Romania and Uruguay. That says it all, really.

Australia

Australia is trying to con you

I dunno. I know the Wallabies had a tough pool and all, but are they as good as everyone seems to think? These Australians don’t actually like to have the ball, which reminds me of that Bill Hicks Jack Pallance gag, and in fairness, only Uruguay, Georgia and Namibia carried the ball less per game in the pool stages.

Israel Folau actually hasn’t fired a shot yet and ranks a lowly 20th in metres run at the tournament, while the Wallabies’ biggest line breaker is Drew Mitchell, and he ranks 21st.

The side’s two best try assist players – Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper – are bench players, which is weird in itself. And this team doesn’t offload. They have made fewer per game than any other side in the playoffs. And that includes Scotland.

Yes, Pocock is a beast. That much is true. No one gets more turnovers than King David. But we say this for Wallabies fans: thank the Lord you are playing Scotland.

FranceQF

If it weren’t for history you’d be writing off France

Let’s just look at this from a strictly statistical point of view, shall we? Yes, we shall.

Of the eight quarterfinalists, France rank:

6th for carries per game
6th for metres per game
7th for points per game
7th for tries per game
7th in second half tries scored
8th in ruck success percentage
8th in first phase tries

But don’t let that get in the way of anything, especially if you’re a paranoid New Zealand fan.

SA

Japan seems a long time ago now for the Springboks

This is a scary South African side. We would leave it at that, but in the spirit of this piece we will embellish:

The best try-scoring team in second half play this tournament, the South Africans have been given the greatest injection of youth since those old folks in Cocoon. It’s not that they have been incapable of playing brilliant attacking rugby in the past, but it’s as if that has now become their plan A.

They tackle well (especially Lodewyk De Jager) and miss fewer of them than every team bar New Zealand and Ireland. They line out well (especially Lodewyk De Jager) and have the best percentage of all teams bar Ireland. They scrum well, too. But that’s nothing new for the Springboks.

What should concern the Welsh is the fact they concede the fewest turnovers in the tournament, while still posting the second best running metres, the second best defender beat numbers, and the third best clean break numbers. And their maul is the best in the business.

Damian de Allende leads the tournament in being deadset elusive. Schalk Burger leads all quarterfinal players in carries and has 13 offoads. Fourie du Preez leads the tournament in try assists. Bryan Habana leads the tournament in tries.

Good luck Wales.

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