strategy World Cup

IRB Rugby World Cup Statistics

The International Rugby Board (IRB) report on the analysis of match statistics from the 2011 World Cup was released recently (see the report here). It paints a flattering picture of various game specifics in comparison to the 2007 and 2003 World Cups, including competitive balance (see my earlier post on this issue):

…Tier 2 teams were competitive for all 80 minutes of the game. The Tier 1 teams did not pull away over the last 20 minutes which was frequently the case in previous World Cups.
…as well as tactical dynamics and aesthetic appeal of the games:
…fewer set pieces, a substantial reduction in kicks from hand and many more passes, Rugby World Cup 2011 saw a renewed emphasis on running rugby.

On the latter, Bret Harris from The Australian newspaper (1 December) is not convinced, citing (perhaps unknowingly) what economists would refer to as selection biases (insofar that the sample of World Cup matches are, on average, less competitively balanced than the population of professional matches):

What was that? Running rugby? If the World Cup was a festival of running rugby, then I’m missing something. Certainly, there were some big scores when the super powers of the Tri-Nations and the Six Nations played the minnows, but in the crucial pool matches and the knockout stages, teams played not to lose rather than to win. There was not a lot of expansive, attacking rugby when the top-tier teams played each other.

For rugby fans, be advised to read the report and make your own decision. My feeling was that the 2011 World Cup (overall) was a marginal improvement on 2007 in terms of attacking/attractive Rugby.

Liam Lenten is a Senior Lecturer in the School Economics at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Liam’s current research agenda is wide-ranging in the discipline, spanning from forecasting models to sports economics. Liam has held recent visiting positions at MIT and University of Michigan, and has previously published about 20 articles in peer-refereed journals.

    1 Comment

    • Avatar Of Nick
      Nick December 13, 2011

      Mr Harris seems to have confused “running rugby” with “big scores”. They’re not necessarily the same.

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