Close Enough is Not Enough

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Argentina's Juan Martin Hernandez
Argentina’s Juan Martin Hernandez

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The rate of tries at the Rugby World Cup 2015 scored from possessions starting with lineouts is cooling while the rate for try-from-turnover is warming.  Through the first 28 matches (everything before Tuesday, October 6), 52% of tries started with a lineout; 16% started with a turnover.

For a map of all 156 tries that is interactive and sortable, click here.

Unsurprisingly, a lineout close to the try zone is more likely to lead to a try than a lineout from further out.

A lineout that is won between 5 and 10 meters leads directly (same possession) to a try 34% of the time – close to 1 in 3.  (Full table is below.)

Push the lineout back to between 11 and 16 meters, and the return rate drops to 22% – close to 1 in 5.

Those extra meters clearly decrease the likelihood of scoring a try.

The value in getting close is even more dramatic looking at just the 5-7 meter lineouts.  Those lineouts, if won, have a 37% chance of turning into a try.

This might only be confirmation of what we already suspected, but it also puts the spotlight onto players in charge of kicking to touch from penalties.  Not all 5 meter lineouts come from Mike Brown’s mis-stepping; many come from penalties.  Teams with a player skilled at actually kicking the ball to the corner rather than just inside the 22 are more likely to score and, presumably, more likely to win.

For a look at the return different teams get from those kicks to touch, check this out.

Cross BeardWhat might be surprising is that a lineout just outside the 22 is better than a lineout just inside the 22. My first theory is that with a little more space, defending teams are anxious about a kick.  Therefore, a defender, like the fullback, who is in the defensive line when the lineout is closer, hangs back and that creates space.  My second theory is that teams who want to exert pressure from a driving maul will maul from anywhere inside the 22, and that’s a mistake.  Outside the 22, teams feel free to call upon all of their attacking moves from the lineout.  Inside the 22, WE ARE MANLY MEN WHO CAN MAUL!  BEHOLD OUR BEARDS AND DESPAIR!

Here is a table of all the lineouts inside 28 meters.

LO Table

All data is from RWC 2015 and collected by me and Somye Goyal.
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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.