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