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Rugby Needs Urgent Attention

The All Blacks have had a mediocre few weeks.

The Australians caught them sleeping in Hong Kong. They looked lethargic for much of the game and the subs bungled it. Stephen Donald continued his All Black form, bungling a series of plays and handing the game to the Australians.

But its not just the play on the field that needs attention. Sitting from a armchair in Austin, TX two things stand out that might not be too apparent to fans down under.

First, how rugby coverage is going backward in the US. Expensive, pay-to-view coverage via Setanta is all but dead for the year-end tours. And Rugbyzone is all but Rugby free. I’m not sure what Rugby’s marketers are thinking about the global expansion of the game but its time to wake up. It’s game over and that’s not good for the game. You aren’t going to grow it in the US without TV.

Second, the difference between American football coverage and Rugby coverage comes down to one simple thing. Stats. Any commentator here seems to be pulling from a fast array of data. Opinion tends to be well informed. Ok, American Football is pretty much the triumph of project management over sport but then the data brings real tight commentary to the game.

What struck me about this story from the NZ Herald was the stats – I can’t remember reading a piece founded on hardcore data in some time.

Having headed down to the pub at 9.30 on Saturday morning and paid my $20 to watch NZ vs. England over a good Irish breakfast, it was a repeat of the prior week. Rokocoko looked busy but ineffective. McCaw looked inspired. And now we have the data to support it. This is the kind of reporting we need more of.

Not only did he (McCaw) have the second best arrival rate at the breakdown (behind Brad Thorn this week) but he was top equal ball carrier with Kieran Read on nine. Sam Whitelock had a dream debut winning all three of his lineout throws and stealing one from England, while his overall workrate at the breakdown saw him come in third behind Thorn and McCaw. Isaia Toeava gets a mention for his try-saving tackle in the corner.

With the data, you wonder what Henry has been thinking.

Great job Tracy. Keep the data coming.

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