Shortly after the Welsh Rugby Union’s tour of Australia in 1996, the Union held a coaching conference on the theme of The Game We Have The Game We Want. I presented a short item on The Physical Demands of the New Game based on my analysis of the Australian tour and other work as a performance analyst. The presentation came at the end of a first season of professional rugby union.
I thought this might be an interesting post for my first historical piece about the analysis of rugby union performance. It was written to encourage a move from a Euro-centric view of rugby to global reach.
I started my presentation with the question:
How can we identify the physical demands of the new game that count rather than identifying the physical demands we can count?
My introductory points were:
- After careful observation of the world game of rugby since 1980 I do believe there is a new game of rugby available to us.
- It has been developed in the Southern Hemisphere and has emerged within the last year.
- The new game has an organic unity of player, coach, referee and administrator.
I indicated that the ‘New Game’ has physical, psychological, technical and tactical dimensions that must be integrated in performance. In the talk I focussed on the physical dimensions.
I used two examples to illustrate my points:
- New Zealand v Australia (6 July 1996)
- Wales in Australia 1996
In the New Zealand v Australia game:
- Ball in Play Time was 26 minutes 43 seconds (34% of available time)
- There was a low number of activity cycles (78) (defined as each time play started and stopped)
- 56% of the activity cycles lasted more than 15 seconds
- The average duration of the activity cycles was 21 seconds
- The longest passage of play was 107 seconds and had 11 phases. A profile of the activity cycles:
|< 10 seconds||35%|
|10 – 30 seconds|
|> 30 seconds||32%|
In a game played by Wales against NSW Country
- Ball in Play Time was 40 minutes 49 seconds
- 52% of the activity cycles lasted more than 15 seconds (there were 7 activity cycles over 60 seconds)
- Wales passed the ball 179 times in the rain
- There were four passages of play that had nine phases each
- Wales won by 40 points and made 143 tackles.
- A profile of the activity cycles:
< 10 seconds
10 – 30 seconds
> 30 seconds
I noted the mobilisation of the game in the second half and the demands continuity would make with 40 minutes + ball in play time.
Two games on the WRU tour of Australia in 1996 exceeded 40 minutes ball in play: this game v NSW Country and the opening game of the tour against Western Australia.
I noted too that the New Game had a big tackling load. The top four tackle games for Wales on the tour were:
v Australia B 197 attempted tackles
v Australia (Second Test) 165 attempted tackles
v NSW Country 143 attempted tackles
v Australia (First Test) 136 attempted tackles
I suggested that the implications of the New Game were:
- Evenly matched teams will have approximately 12 minutes of possession each per game
- It will become increasingly difficult to lose the ball
- Players will need to be dynamic and explosive to retain or contest possession
- Acceleration becomes a major attribute particularly from scrummage
I thought the New Game would be dynamic, invasive, direct and disintegrative. I concluded with these points:
- There is a New Game available to us.
- It is combative, exciting and high-scoring
- It can be played in all conditions.
- It exhausts everyone.
- It is one hell of a challenge.