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Stats Favour Fiji

We look at who bossed and who lost key areas of the sevens game in 2014-15 by delving into the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series statistical analysis. As the 2015-16
03 Dec 2015 11:31
Stats Favour Fiji

We look at who bossed and who lost key areas of the sevens game in 2014-15 by delving into the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series statistical analysis.

As the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series gets ready for kick-off in Dubai, we look back at last season through a statistician’s lens, unearthing a number of intriguing trends and ‘did you knows’ along the way.

Attack. attack, attack

Just when you thought sevens couldn’t get any better, it did. The average number of tries and points scored per game in 2014-15 was higher than in the previous three seasons, with 5.8 tries (compared to 5.2 in 2013-14) and 36.4 points (33 in 2013-14).

Fiji fly the flag

Fijian flair was to the fore again in 2014-15, resulting in Ben Ryan’s side scoring more tries on average than any other team at 4.5 tries per match, or one every 44 seconds of possession – that’s 29 seconds quicker than the series average. The two other ‘sub one-minute’ teams were South Africa and New Zealand.

Pool party

To win the world series title without losing a single match in pool play is testament to the consistency that has been added to Fiji’s unquestionable natural ability by Ben Ryan, and his assistants.

Penalties win prizes

A reduced penalty count was one of the factors behind Fiji’s first series title success since 2005-06. They conceded an average of just 3.1 penalty/free-kicks per match in 2014-15, compared to 3.8 in 2013-14. Best in this respect were Kenya with 2.5 pens/free kicks conceded per game. When you consider that most tries conceded come from infringements (32 per cent) this was a vital area for Fiji to make an improvement in.

Scotland were the most clinical in this respect with 42 per cent of their tries coming immediately after the referee had blown his whistle.

Turnover Maple leafs

Among the core teams, Canada were the kings when it came to converting turnovers into tries with 31 per cent of their five-pointers.

Phase play phased out

Fiji don’t do patient build-ups. Eighty-two per cent of their tries were scored with no ruck or maul in the move leading up a try being scored – 13 per cent higher than the next team. In 67 per cent of cases, three passes or fewer were made by Fiji in scoring a try – only South Africa (74 per cent) were more clinical in that respect.

Series sinners

Samoa received 16 yellow cards throughout the series. Given their low penalty count Fiji were surprisingly the joint second worst offenders in this respect along with South Africa with 13 cards collected. Overall, there was a big rise in the number of yellow cards being shown – up from 93 in 2011-12 to 142 last season.

Keep ball

New Zealand’s combativeness at the breakdown perhaps helps to explain why they had possession of the ball longer than any other team on the series – three minutes and 54 seconds (54 per cent).

Sir Gordon Tietjens’ team were masters of the ruck, enjoying joint-top position with Australia in terms of rucks won with 84 per cent. It’s not always how long you have the ball though, it is what you do with it.

Fiji, for example, only averaged three minutes 15 seconds of possession, putting them 15th in that category.

While their ball retention rate at the ruck and maul (79 per cent) was lower than South Africa and New Zealand, it was a significantly higher than the 73 per cent they managed the previous year.

World Rugby

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