Rugby and other sports

A collection of posts related to Rugby, Tennis, and other sport. Take a look and enjoy

England v Ireland at Twickenham


via Instagram

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Chris Robshaw

Amazing! I got to meet Chris Robshaw. It was great to hear him talk about leadership, World Cup challenges and even stand up comedy at a #rugby business network event

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Barbarians v Argentina

via Instagram
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Siri doesn’t like Rugby

Well, it seems that Siri does not like Rugby. Only information about baseball, basketball, American football, ice hockey or cricket (!). Apparently golf and tennis to follow...

Oh well...

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England v Wales - Rugby

I have been meaning to post these pictures of the Old Mutual Cup test match between England and Wales on May 29th. It was a great day and England won 27-13 after a very shaky start. In the end England scored 5 tries, and despite the poor kicking of Mr Ford they managed to defeat Wales.

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Rugby World Cup 2015

Getting ready for England v Fiji! 


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Now reading: "The Physics of Rugby"

Now reading: "The Physics of Rugby" by Trevor D. Lipscombe.

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Rugby Union analytics – five ways data is changing the sport - Reblog

This is a reblog of an article by Bill Gerrard in The Guardian (click on the link to go to the original). I find it very interesting that Rugby is moving forward in this direction. What do you think?

Saracens technical analyst Bill Gerrard is a sports data expert and longtime collaborator with Billy Beane. Here he charts how data is reshaping rugby union

All the top sports team use data these days – and rugby union is no exception

When I started working on data analysis in sport, when I tried to value football players in the 90s before Prozone and Opta, all we had in terms of data was who played, who scored, and basically who was a bad boy. Nowadays all the leading rugby union clubs will use data to monitor fitness, injury prevention and tracking players through GPS. That’s not a surprise: the sport scientists and performance analysts who have come into rugby since professionalism have a background in data because they studied science. However Saracens are probably unique in how much tactical data analysis we do. We have a coaching staff who are strongly wedded to data analysis, and that has a lot to do with the culture Brendan Venter, a practising GP, created at the club. He very much believes in an evidence-based approach to performance and that is what we have implemented.

If I am doing my job well, I need to detect the strengths and weaknesses in my weekly opposition analysis that Saracens’ coaches can use in their game plan. They will look at my report, pick up on things, and then study match footage in detail - and from that analysis they will feed tactical insights to the players in the run up to a game. It is worth stressing that everything I do is fed to the coaches to help support decision-making. Incidentally, I read a lot of analytics work, but it can be quite superficial from a coaching view – sometimes you think so what? For example, knowing that more successful teams typically have played together a lot more is almost a statement of the obvious. And you can’t go out and buy shared experienced.

Apologies to romantics, but the data shows the kicking game works ...

When I joined Saracens, one of the first things I did was to show that the coaches’ intuitions about what was the most effective style of rugby was supported by the data: on the whole, teams that use a kicking game more tend to be more successful. It’s one of the basic principles of effective rugby. Now that goes against the purists who want total rugby, and want to play ball-in-hand rugby wherever they are on the pitch. Well, I’m afraid the data doesn’t support that. The less you play in your own half and the more you play in the opposition half, the more likely you are to be successful.

There are really two reasons why that is the case: the more you play in your own half, the more likely you are to be turned over. And the more you are turned over nearer your try line, the more you are likely to concede. Second, the more that you run the ball in rugby, the more collisions and rucks you are going to be involved in and they just sap energy. Incidentally there are certain teams who slightly change the way they play against us – you can see that in the data. Teams kick more when they play against Saracens. The data doesn’t lie.

Deep data analysis increasingly provides insights which can help teams develop successful game plans

The game against Clermont in last year’s Heineken Cup semi-final was one of the best performances in my time at Saracens. And I think it was my best performance in terms of opposition analysis too. We knew how vital Brock James was, so I did an incredibly detailed analysis of his kicking game - the types of kicks, when he made them, from which part of the field and the distance he tended to get. Another important element was deeply analysing the key people in their running game.

But what also came out was that in the seven games prior to that Heineken Cup semi-final, Clermont had only conceded six points in total in the first 20 minutes in those games. They started very strongly and the way they used the kicking game was huge part of that. They would put teams under pressure, get ahead, and in the second half they would adopt a conservative game of keeping what they’d got. And you could see it in the stats in terms of the types of kicks too. They put up bombs far more often in the first half then in the second half. In the second half Brock James would kick for position, he would kick for territory. He was very conservative. That was fed into the coaches and their plan to combat Clermont’s strategy worked perfectly. Indeed, I don’t think Saracens have ever implemented a game plan as well as they did that day.

Data is increasingly custom-made by clubs because it can provide more valuable insights

With a third-party provider such as Opta, I’ll get data on the outcome of every scrum the opposition has had in the league and European Champions Cup. Opta will also tell you if the No8 had a pick and go from the scrum, or passed, or so on. But Saracens’ internal scrum data goes much deeper because the scrum coach, Alex Sanderson, will analyse the technique of every player involved in every scrum and he will pick up on where there has been a failure of technique. Some of it is comment, but that can be transformed into data because it is categorising the outcome.

It is what I call ‘expert data’ because you have an evaluation of technique or decision making. It’s the same with the internal kicking data we use - the kicking coach will evaluate at every given situation how many chases there should have been and go through the video and evaluate how many effective chases were made. Similarly, when it comes to tackles made you’ll get a single figure from Opta, while at Saracens our performance analysts will record several categories of tackles. It all means that we are able to more accurately assess player performance which should help us become a better team.

Data is increasingly important in rugby - and the way technology is going that is not going to change

My academic background is in applied economics and my sporting background is football – I have a Uefa B coaching license. So when I first met Saracens’ coaches their questioned what someone who had never played or coached the sport possibly contribute to a rugby union team. Five years on I am still there, and I have been able to learn from coaches like Brendan Venter, Mark McCall, Paul Gustard and others at first hand. Inevitably I can only see the role of data analysts growing: we increasingly have new technology coming into rugby, which will put more demand on people who can process that data and come up with relevant analysis. But it might be that I am superseded by people who can combine a strong coaching background in rugby union with analytics. After all, I can find patterns in the numbers, tell coaches what the numbers are saying, and pick out where the performance levels are at, but it is the coaches who have the deeper understanding to do something with it.

Rugby Union Analytics

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Friend by enemy...

Last week, in preparation for the Six Nations match of England v Wales, the BBC put out a video of Elijah Wood reading To Others Than You by Dylan Thomas. I believe it is only available from the UK, but you can still try.




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"Monster" London Sevens 2014


Monster London Sevens 2014

Great poster for the Marriott London Sevens Rugby, I particularly like the tentacles cheering up. Well done!



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England Rugby World Cup - 10 years...

It is true, it has been 10 long years since England won the Rugby World Cup against Australia. The memories may be good and the celebrations of the ten year anniversary are in full swing: round tables recalling the victory, charity match in Twickenham, DVDs, tweeting the match as live, and Strictly… maybe not the latter.

There are of course criticisms about not consolidating that win into a more sustained legacy, but let’s hope that things are getting better.

The 2003 winning team: Josh Lewsey, Jason Robinson, Will Greenwood, Mike Tindall, Ben Cohen, Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Dawson, Trevor Woodman, Steve Thompson, Phil Vickery, Martin Johnson (c), Ben Kay, Richard Hill, Lawrence Dallaglio, Mike Catt, Jason Leonard.

Rugby Worldcup 2003 Rugby Worldcup Rugby Worldcup

Related Articles:
Rugby World Cup 2003: How the Guardin covered England’s victory




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Rugby League World Cup 2013

Not long to go for the Opening Ceremony of the Rugby League World Cup in Cardiff.



RWC Cardiff

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New England Rugby Alternate Shirt

I quite like the look of the look of the new England #Rugby alternate shirt. Now you know!

Rugby Canterbury 1 Rugby Canterbury 2


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The Legendary Journey - British & Irish Lions tour

It's 125 years since The British & Irish Lions first set sail to Australia. To celebrate the Lions' anniversary and 2013 Tour to Hong Kong and Australia, HSBC re-imagines tales of the Lions past, present and future with Warren Gatland leading a crew of Lions heroes on a Legendary Journey...


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Excellent day for Rugby at Twickenham

I am glad they got the weather forecast wrong for this bank holiday weekend. Enjoying a bit of sunshine, a beer and some rugby with England v Barbarians.



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RFU Podcast feed - one that can be used!

Association crest
Association crest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been waiting quite a bit for the RFU to make their podcasts available via iTunes or some other similar service. I used to listen to them but for one reason or another the feed changed to the extent that no submission was done to iTunes and the RSS of the RFU's website is basically dead.

So, inspired by a post by Rolando Garza, I decided to hack an RSS that can actually be used to download the RFU podcast and get some information about Rugby. So I used a combination of Feedity which used HTML scraping to generate an RSS of almost any page. With the help op Yahoo Pipes I managed to use the magic of regular expressions to add appropriate dates and enclosures to the feed and the result is the RFU Podcast Feed.

So, as long as the RFU does not change the way they deal with their website and the posting of their mp3 content, then you can enjoy a bit of Rugby right in your mp3 devices.

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Rugby World Cup Qualifiers - Mexico v Jamaica

Well, it seems that the qualifiers for the 2015 Rugby World Cup have started, and to kick them off, Mexico and Jamica had the first match in La Universidad Iberoamericana, Santa Fe. I did spend some time in La Ibero and I am very pleased to see that they are supporting Rugby there.

The match gathered a respectable 2000 fans, the referee was Craig Joubert and they even brought the Webb Ellis Trophy for display. Lawrence Dallaglio was there as well. This was also the opener of the North American Caribbean Rugby Association championship. Mexico scored a total of nine tries, one of which was the make of Juan Pablo Andrade, Mexico's captain and scrum-half. Mexico ended up winning 68-14.

Over the next three years, 80 countries will take part in the qualifications to claim one of the eight places in the 2015 World Cup. They will then join the 12 nations with guaranteed entry according to their performances at the 2011 edition in New Zealand.

Let's see how this goes, but in the mean time, well done Mexico!

MEXICO: 1 Patrick Jouan 2 Carlos Prieto 3 Max Douek 4 Gonzalo Taddei 5 Erik Castillo 6 Luis Rosete 7 Fernando Herrejon (1 try) 8 Simon Pierre (1 try) 9 Juan Pablo Andrade (captain, 1 try) 10 Miguel Carner (1 try, 4 conversions, 2 penalties)11 Samuel Gythu Nyaga (1 try) 12 Pablo Pagano 13 Christian Henning (2 tries)14 Alejandro Chavez 15 Pascal Nadaud (1 try).

Replacements: 16 Juan Manuel Ceja Matamoros 17 Luis Hernandez Cruz 18 Roberto Calderon (1 try) 19 Pablo Pinedo 20 Bruno Rodriguez 21 Carlos Susarrey 22 Gerardo Gil Hernandez.

JAMAICA: 1 Romaine Campbell (1 try) 2 Robert Johnson 3 Sandino Hastings 4 Kemar Catwell 5 Edgar Herbine 6 Omar Jones 7 Chrisdan Grayson 8 Carlyle Burger (captain) 9 Andrew Hylton 10 Nicholas Pusey 11 Ronaldo Wade (1 try) 12 Tyrone Rowe 13 Donald Walters 14 Ryan Grant (2 conversions) 15 Joseph Shae.

Replacements: 16 Deryon Balfoure 17 Rahmone Goldbourne 18 Allessandro Allen 19 Hubert Thomas 20 Mohenjo Thompson 21 Kenneth Walker 22 Claude Yen.

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Prime numbers? Really? 0? 6? 12? Do not do that @Official_RFU

Prime numbers? Really? 0? 6?12? Do not do that @Official_RFU

Prime Numbers Fail
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Ready for England v Argentina


Well, I did get a message from O2 about Getting Up for England and support the Rugby team in their campaign in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

They offered a some pies and beer to watch the England v Argentina match... and here you go, they did deliver what they promised. So, all I have to do now is put the alarm and wake up in time to watch the match.

England Argentina O2 Pies 1England Argentina O2 Pies 2



England Argentina O2 Pies 3




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Desert Island Discs with Lawrence Dallaglio

Lawrence Dallaglio
Image by fat dad via Flickr

Desert Island Discs is indeed a very interesting programme, even more so when they are ready to outcast interesting people, or rather people that I find interesting. In more occasions than none I end up learning something new about the guest. If you don't know what Desert Island Discs is, I explained it briefly in a previous post.

This was certainly the case with Lawrence Dallaglio in the latest episode of the BBC Radio4 programme. I indeed was aware of Lawrence being a very successful rugby player (flanker or number 8) for London Wasps, the only club he played for, and a former captain for England. Dallaglio was one of the key players of the England team that won the Rugby Worldcup in 2003. What I didn't know for example was the fact that he once sang backing vocals for Tina Turner for the song "We don't need another hero"; and by the way this was NOT one of his chosen pieces of music. So how did this happen? Well, apparently while being a student in the King's House School, he sang in the choir and his music teacher was quite involved in the music industry. Also, as part of the same choir, Dallaglio sand a the wedding of Andrew Lloyd Weber.

England Rugby Union Player Lawrence Dallaglio
Image via Wikipedia

Lawrence has a very interesting background, his father (Vincenzo) is Italian and his mother (Eileen) is half Irish. He remarked that this makes a dangerous combination for an English man, as it makes him not be afraid of showing what he thinks. His parents made efforts to get both Lawrence and his sister Francesca into public school and so he was admitted to Ampleforth College, one of the leading Roman Catholic boarding schools in England.

One of the turning points in Dallaglio's life was the tragic death of his sister Francesca in 1989. She died in the Marchioness disaster at the age of 19. It was quite clear how much he was (and is) affected by this, re recounted how he was supposed to be with her at the time, but he ended up not going. It can be said that these events changed his life. He ended up joining Wasps as a manner of concentrating on something else and indeed he succeeded. Nonetheless, he admits that rugby took over other important aspects of his life as he became to driven by it.

His choices of music were quite good:

  1. Eddy Grant - Walking on sunshine
  2. Michael Jackson - Don't stop 'til you get enough
  3. The Beatles - A hard day's night
  4. The Police - Walking on the Moon
  5. Bob Marley - One love
  6. Dexys Midgnight Runners - Come on Eileen
  7. Oasis - Champagne supernova
  8. Peter Sarstedt - Where do you go my lovely? (his final choice to take to the island)

His book of choice was Ripley's World by the former England rugby player Andy Ripley and he quoted from him the following phrase: "You can earn a living from what you get but you only get a life from what you give. Take it from me baby, giving is always best." Finally, I really liked the luxury he decided to take with him to the desert island: Marmite (yoohoo!!)

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England v Samoa in Twickenham

Pretty good atmosphere here in Twickenham for the England v Samoa rugby match.

Rugby England Samoa Rugby England Samoa Rugby England Samoa




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