The Reign of King Lineout

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – Not all possession is equal.  Close to 60% of the tries scored so far at the 2015 Rugby World Cup have started with a lineout.  Even if the rate cools slightly for the rest of the tournament, the lineout looks to be, pretty clearly, the best kind of possession for scoring tries.

If there is a portrait of an average try so far for the 2015 World Cup, it starts with a lineout 25 meters out and is scored on the 4th phase.

Here is the link (still no embed) to an interactive chart with 97 tries from 17 matches.  Sort by Attacking Team, Opposition, or “Possession started with…”

Here is a teaser Gif to show how it works.

Infographic Show


57 of the 97 tries (59%) came from possessions that started with lineouts.

25% of the lineouts won 30 meters or closer led directly (same possession) to a try.  That means that losing a lineout inside 30 meters is giving away 1.25 points.

Why do so many tries come from lineouts?  Most simply: there are lots of them and they end with a whistle relatively infrequently.

Most importantly: the lineout allows for a scripted, rehearsed passage of play. Not only can sides plan the first phase move, but the second phase, third phase, and maybe more. Of course teams need to execute, but a lineout is like 2 or 3 set pieces, not just one.

In contrast, 8 tries of the 97 (8%) started with scrums.

53 scrums occurred 30 meters in or closer.  From those, 10 penalties were won by the attacking side and all 8 tries were scored from within this range

If we remove the 10 scrums that ended with a penalty to the attacking team, that means that 19% of attacking scrums inside 30 meters ended with a try.  Of course the scrums that end in penalties can become penalty goals or lineouts, or more scrums.  Japan’s winning try against South Africa, most notably, involved a scrum-penalty in the build-up.  And England turned a scrum-penalty into 3 points against Wales…in the first half.

We are tracking the outcome of scrums and penalties, which means that as the tournament progresses, we can see how many scrums become penalties which become points (either directly from the boot or indirectly from a lineout or some other means).  Trying to pin down the point value for a scrum penalty is for another day.

For now, we know that a lineout stolen within 30 meters is 1.25 points stolen.

The data below from scrums and lineouts make it clear that it is Uruguay, not Namibia, who are most over-matched at the tournament.

Here is the lineout breakdown:

Click to enlarge.

Lineouts RWC

In order to understand how well sides are performing at scrums and lineouts, we need to look at the quality of the ball they are producing, and, at the same time, the scrum and lineout results of the opposition.

Ireland had an excellent day against Canada, for instance, wining all of its lineouts cleanly while also contributing to Canada performing worse than their general average.

On the flip side there is Uruguay.  Not much is going well for Uruguay.

In general, the more lineout chances a team has, the better.  That is true even for teams with a low-performing lineout.

Here is the breakdown for scrums.

61% of all scrums were completed; the rest ended in a penalty or free kick.

Scrums RWC

The far-right column is how many scrums ended with a positive outcome for the opposition when the opposition was attacking.  So Wales’ opponents had 21 attacking scrums, and 13 (62%) ended with a positive outcome for those Welsh opponents.

What about ATGA, man?

Despite the fact that the stat has not yet provided any revelations in its two-week existence, I didn’t forget about it!

Last week saw the introduction of TGA and ATGA, designed to capture the territory being gained by teams, and individual players on behalf of their teams, through kicks to touch from penalties.

Here is an update on TGA (Territory Gained Average) and ATGA (Adjusted TGA).  Notable is Scotland’s 37.3 ATGA.  The Scots have beaten two sides (Japan and USA) they should have beaten, but eating up territory like that should make things easier against Samoa and keep them in the match against the Springboks.

TGA Update

As of this writing, the data here includes 17 of the 20 matches played so far.  Missing: South Africa v Samoa, Ireland v Romania, and Namibia v Tonga.

That’s it… Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Jake Frechette, Junoir Blaber, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Scheenagh Harrington, Jamie Loyd, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Audrey Youn, Akweley Okine, Rocky Brown and Declan Yeats, respectively.

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About Jake Frechette 125 Articles
Jake Frechette lives outside of Philly, where he is engrossed enough in rugby that he sometimes forgets that when he talks about the Eagles, most people assume he means the NFL flock. He once played both tight head and inside center in the same game, which shows that he is strong, handsome and has nice hair. One of the things he finds most enjoyable in the rugby world is that Andrew Hore is a Hooker and he can't wait until his sons are old enough to giggle at that one with him.