One of the people rugby teams can’t do without

Rugby analsyst at London Welsh Jon Shelbourne

During a rugby match, the TV cameras occasionally cut to a shot of the team’s management sat in the stand. Usually, they’re sat
behind a pasty-looking individual who is frantically scanning a laptop screen and pointing things out to the coaches.

Well, I’m one of those blokes. And no, I’m not playing Tetris, organising my iTunes playlists, or even looking at dodgy websites.
Like a hard-scrummaging tighthead or a 90% accurate goalkicker, I’m one of those people a modern rugby team can’t do
without. I’m the analyst.

For those wondering what the job entails, our focus has three main components: pre-match; real-time and post-match analysis.

Pre-match analysis involves taking a look at the team that we’re due to be playing and seeing if they have certain trends in the
way they like to play. This would be both in terms of their set-pieces – scrum and line-out – and in open play.

We can then put together a plan of how best to disrupt both their defence and attacking patterns and enable us to impose our game-plan on the
opposition. It’s the successful execution of this game-plan that will make the difference between winning and losing.

We also need to take into account the relevant competition. Clubs obviously give priority to the Premiership, and the difference in starting
XVs between the team named for an Aviva game and one named for an alternative competition can often be in double figures.

As a result, we also need a fair depth of analysis of the personnel involved – if a prop scrummages in a certain way or if a centre has a
much weaker tackling side, for example.

We also need to take into account which referee is in charge of the game. You look for trends in the way they control the game,
particularly how they referee the breakdown and set-pieces and advise the players where they are likely to award penalties.

In terms of live analysis of a game, most of it is visual, using your pre-match analysis as a reference point.

Obviously, the opposition have been analysing your team and so may well have tweaked their game-plan accordingly. We then need to pick up
on any weak points they may be exploiting and get that message across to the team at half-time to make sure any problem areas
are fixed.

The programs that we run are set-up to give both a tight shot and wide shot of play and post-match. I’ll collate these and make
sure each of the coaches has a copy for our post-match analysis.

We can then pick up any problem areas and work on those during the next week. In addition, players get a video clip of their contributions during a game – both good and bad – and information related to that clip. Any problems in that area can then be ironed out before the next game.

We also collate the stats of tackles made, tackles missed, number of carries, etc and go through these. Clearly, there is almost no end to the amount of
analysis you can do, so you have to make sure that you focus on the most important issues so that players aren’t overloaded with
too much information.

It’s certainly not a conventional 9 to 5 job and working weekends and evenings is a pre-requisite! You do pick up some amusing
stories though, which we’ll have a look at in future blogs.


If you are making the trip to the Kassam Stadium check out the London Welsh club page.

Read more Living Rugby blogs here.

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