#Ruckgate 6 Nations 2017

Saturday 25th February 2017 (Round 3 RBS 6 Nations) England v. Italy @ Twickenham

Can you recall such an occasion in rugby that has caused such a stir in the professional game…?!

With everyone seeming to have an opinion on all forms of Social Media recently, to what I will refer to as #Ruckgate, about the events at Twickenham in Round 3 of the RBS 6 Nations has sparked a global debate within the game between players, coaches, pundits and fans, and for many, scrambling to dust off their LAW books…

With the dust now settled, I will aim to provide an objective analysis to #Ruckgate rather than bring another subjective opinion about the events that unfolded on this eventful afternoon. The match was between the tournament’s favourites, England, and Italy who the week before were having their place in the tournament come in to question and whether or not they deserve their place in the oldest rugby tournament in the world.

Scenarios from the match

Ruck:

No Ruck:

#Ruckgate:

LAW definition

N.B. In many sports they are referred to as RULES but in rugby they are referred to as LAWS.

Here is the referee clarifying the LAWS in the middle of the game… https://youtu.be/3kFAEJgZ1oE

Taken from World Rugby’s 2017 law book app

The key aspect to emphasise here is “who are on their feet, in physical contact”.

Here is a good explanation of the law…

http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/all-blacks/71011642/strang-all-blacks-always-appear-offside-and-the-reason-is-in-the-rule-book

#Ruckgate Objective data

Ruck/NO Ruck comparison

Based on the LAW definition explained above each #Ruckgate was classified either as a Ruck or NO Ruck…

England #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Italy #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Ruck

15

24

39

Ruck

30

18

48

NO Ruck

34

33

67

NO Ruck

27

17

44

Total

49

57

106

Total

57

35

92

Number of attacking players sent into the #Ruckgate area

With the #Ruckgate NO Rucks, I analysed how many players where sent into the #Ruckgate area on each occasion, which did not include the ball carrier or the “scrum half”.

Here is the breakdown…

England #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Italy #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

1

1

4

5

1

0

0

0

2

8

15

23

2

8

6

14

3

13

10

23

3

15

7

22

4

5

2

7

4

3

3

6

5

4

1

5

5

1

1

2

6

1

1

2

7

1

0

1

8

1

0

1

Total

34

33

67

Total

27

17

44

From this table you can see that both teams had 2 or 3 players over the ball carrier at a #Ruckgate. Interestingly you can see a change in tactics with England having 1 or 2 players on their feet over the ball carrier in the 2nd half.

This is emphasised in the % table below and shows the tactics employed at the #Ruckgates…

England #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Italy #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

1

3%

12%

7%

1

0%

0%

0%

2

24%

45%

34%

2

30%

35%

32%

3

38%

30%

34%%

3

56%

41%

50%

4

15%

6%

10%

4

11%

18%

14%

5

12%

3%

7%

5

4%

6%

5%

6

3%

3%

3%

7

3%

0%

1%

8

3%

0%

1%

Total

34

33

67

Total

27

17

44

Number of occasions the #Ruckgate tactic was employed

Then with the #Ruckgate NO Rucks, I then analysed how many times the #Ruckgate tactics were employed.

#Ruckgate Tactics

Here is the breakdown…

England #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Italy #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Tactic

13

15

28

Tactic

0

1

1

NO Tactic

21

18

39

NO Tactic

27

16

43

Total

34

33

67

Total

27

17

44

So Italy used the #Ruckgate tactic 13 times out of 34 #Ruckgates in the 1st half and 15 times out of 33 #Ruckgates in the 2nd half, thus totalling 28 times they used the #Ruckgate tactic out of 67 #Ruckgates.

Now I will put this into a %…

England #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Italy #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Tactic

38%

45%

42%

Tactic

0%

6%

2%

NO Tactic

62%

55%

58%

NO Tactic

100%

94%

98%

Total

34

33

67

Total

27

17

44

From this table you could argue that England never had the tactic in their toolbox, whereas Italy used the #Ruckgate tactic only on selective occasions in both halves.

Italy’s #Ruckgate tactic did not always work… which resulted in England scoring or nearly scoring tries…

https://youtu.be/aJhLuL0cVP4

But it did work at other times and led to Italy scoring a try, causing England to make mistakes or give penalties away and forcing England to kick to kick the ball away… thus resulting in an Italian Lineout in the English half or a Counter Attack… with both Possession Platforms having a very high chance of resulting in a try being scored (N.B. based on the data from my ongoing Try Scoring Trends Research Project)

https://youtu.be/RMi_p_n9Pv0

It would be interesting to research WHERE the Italy #Ruckgates occurred…

1st Half

LHS 15m

LHS Half

RHS Half

RHS 15m

Italy 22

???

???

???

???

Italy Half

???

???

???

???

England Half

???

???

???

???

England 22

???

???

???

???

Total

???

???

???

???

 

2nd Half

LHS 15m

LHS Half

RHS Half

RHS 15m

Italy 22

???

???

???

???

Italy Half

???

???

???

???

England Half

???

???

???

???

England 22

???

???

???

???

Total

???

???

???

???

It would be interesting to research WHEN Italy used the #Ruckgate tactic…

England #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

#1

???

???

???

#2

???

???

???

#3

???

???

???

#4

???

???

???

#5

???

???

???

#6

???

???

???

#7

???

???

???

#8

???

???

???

Total

34

33

67

Questions this poses…

How long did it take to England to recognise what Italy were doing…?

How long did it take for England to change their tactics at #Ruckgates…?

How many times did England pick and go…?

When was the first time England picked and went…?

How many times did England players pop the ball from the floor when tackled to the ground…?

When was the first time an England player did this…?

How many times did England offload out of the tackle…?

When was the first time an England player offloaded out of the tackle…?

Tactics to combat #Ruckgate

What tactics could you employ to combat the #Ruckgate tactic…?

Quick and Agile players Snipe:

https://youtu.be/vGIG3ttqmKM

Pick and Go:

https://youtu.be/nfOR-StTRzU

Offload out of the tackle:

https://youtu.be/9SAx23Res7I

Offload from off the floor:

https://youtu.be/Ekc8eq2V-DA

1st receiver goes directly behind #Ruckgate:

https://youtu.be/IzMkHiFWFMg

Ball carrier on floor gets back to feet and goes again…:

https://youtu.be/CXrHek0S-PU

Tactic

How many times England used the tactic…?

“Scrum half” snipes

2*

(1st one: Ball carrier kicked the ball away)

(2nd one: Resulted in a penalty for obstruction)

Pick and Go

18

Offload out of tackle

16

Offload from the floor

1

1st receiver goes directly behind #Ruckgate

1

B/C on floor gets back to feet and goes again…

1

Four questions arise from this about the planning and Practice Design in your training sessions away from the match and the leadership and decision making capabilities of your players during the match as #Ruckgate events unfold…

  • How do you plan for an unknown event that has “never” happened before in one of your matches…?
  • How do you design your training sessions to include moments when you can spring surprises on your players to see how they will adapt to these situations…?
  • How do you develop leadership qualities during your training sessions…?
  • How do you empower your players to be able to change tactics in the heat of the moment…?

What was the “game winning” factor…?!

England #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Italy #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Offloads

5

11

16

Offloads

0

0

0

Here you can see the impact this had on two of the England tries in the 2nd half and what would have been a third offloading try if it wasn’t for the offloading between Ben Two and Jonny May not going to hand in the Italy 22m area in the 1st half…

https://youtu.be/IHA1glYzfIQ

Did giving away penalties at the #Ruckgate have a bearing on the outcome of the match…?!

The table below shows the team that was awarded a penalty at a #Ruckgate…

England #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Italy #Ruckgates

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

England

1

1

2

England

2

0

2

Italy

1

1

2

Italy

3

1

4

 

Closing points…

These matches are labelled as TEST matches…

  • How did the England team fair in their “test”…?!
  • What mark would you score them in their “test”…?!
  • How did the Italy team fair in their “test”…?!
  • What mark would you score them in their “test”…?!

During the week after the match I posed four questions on my Twitter feed based on one of Connor O’Shea’s comments, i.e. “Rugby is a game of chaos”, after the game…

  • What environment should you provide for your players for a “game of chaos”…?!
  • How do you empower your players to cope with a “game of chaos”…?!
  • How do you prepare your players for a “game of chaos”…?!
  • How do you challenge your players to be ready for a “game of chaos”…?!

 

Some interesting stats…

Italy won the 1st half 10-5: Italy #Ruckgates totalled 62 compared to 49 #Ruckgates for England.

England won the 2nd half 31-10: England #Ruckgates totalled 55 compared to 34 #Ruckgates for Italy.

England won the game 36-16: England offloaded 16 times…Italy offloaded 0 times.

 

Further view points…

BBC 5 Live Podcast with Ugo Monye and Chris Jones:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04v72pw

Sir Clive Woodward’s Daily Mail articles:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/article-4262172/SIR-CLIVE-WOODWARD-m-fan-Italy-s-anti-rucking.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/article-4265274/SIR-CLIVE-WOODWARD-Italy-s-no-ruck-ploy-outlawed.html

Stuart Barnes’ Sky Sports article:

http://www.skysports.com/rugby-union/news/12062/10783823/stuart-barnes-italys-tactics-should-not-be-criticised

Murray Kinsella’s article in ‘The 42’:

http://www.the42.ie/italy-tackle-only-england-france-ireland-owens-3261610-Feb2017/

Dylan Hartley’s ESPN article:

http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/18799997/six-nations-england-dylan-hartley-accepts-blame-italy-successful-ruck-tactics

New York Times article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/28/sports/rugby/rugby-ruck-italy-six-nations.html?_r=0

Simon Cron’s article:

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/rugby/innovative-italy-put-super-teams-on-alert-to-quickly-find-counter-for-the-fox-tactic-before-weekend/news-story/31b1296d9eae5d12a4f0c832e8a334da

 

Further viewing…

A highlight reel with BBC commentary of some of the #Ruckgate Rucks…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1Abavj16hg

 

The future…

The future may look something like this…

Murray Kinsella’s article in ‘The 42’

http://www.the42.ie/world-rugby-tackle-only-trials-2017-3263103-Feb2017/

…as World Rugby are going through their process of LAW trials currently in the 2017 Americas Rugby Championship… In essence there would be no more #Ruckgates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *