Stats show England do not need a genuine open side
Statistics Show That England Do Not Need Genuine Openside
Eddie Jones has been criticised for selecting both James Haskell and Chris Robshaw.
In the aftermath of England’s disastrous World Cup campaign, commentators were quick to criticise Stuart Lancaster for not selecting a genuine openside in his starting team.
Given that both Australia and Wales got on top of England at the breakdown, discussions as to who might wear the number jersey during the Six Nations occupied the minds of both fans and writers alike.
Indeed, when Eddie Jones enlisted the help of George Smith, it was thought that likes of Matt Kvesic or Jack Clifford would start against Scotland as a breakdown specialist. However Jones has since created a good deal of controversy by consistently selecting both James Haskell and Chris Robshaw in his team.
As a result, critics are continuing to demand that England employ a genuine openside in order to win turnovers and disrupt opposition ruck ball.
However, in an article published on Sport Magazine, Charlie Morgan has pointed out that England do not need a formally recognised number seven, as Jones has instead put an emphasis on producing quick ball.
Jones has not transformed England into an expansive outfit. Their template remains reliant on robust forward runners.
However, with the help of Steve Borthwick and the odd visit from Wasps’ Smith, he has increased the pace at which England operate.
Using the graph below, Morgan demonstrates that during the the 2015 Six Nations, England’s average ruck speed – defined as the time between a ruck forming and the ball coming back in play – was the slowest in the Championship at 4.46 seconds.
However this season, England have reduced the average time it takes them to produce ruck ball to 3.75 seconds. A time that has got incrementally shorter, from 4.5 seconds in Murrayfield, to 3.34 against Ireland.
Therefore, it would seem that England are looking to deny the likes of Sam Warburton the opportunity to even get near the breakdown by producing quick ruck ball.
Although many will maintain that without a genuine openside England will struggle to disrupt their opposition, Morgan illustrated that against Scotland, who deployed both John Barclay and John Hardie, the tenacious Robshaw, Haskell and George Kruis slowed Scottish ball to an average recycle of just over four seconds.
While such statistics seem ominous for Wales, it is worth noting that Ireland generated very quick ruck ball in Twickenham, averaging 2.9 seconds per breakdown.
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