Rugby analysis carries on out of season

Rugby analysis doesn't end as the final whistle of the season goes, it carries on, says Jon Shelbourne

Contrary to what you might think, an analyst doesn’t close his laptop at the final whistle of the last game of the season and make a dash for the airport and a few months on the beach before swanning back into the club at the end of August!

As soon as the last game was over, I put together the match and player analysis from that game and then started to bring together all the data from every match for each player and turn it into a season long performance chart.

Lyn Jones can then see how many tackles a player attempted, made or missed; the number of carries; passes completed; effectiveness in certain parts of the game, etc. This can then be used as a starting point to discuss the areas of a player’s game that might need working on or refining in the off-season – for example, effectiveness in clearing out rucks.

Obviously, if a player has long periods out through injury then this needs to be factored in when looking at the data. Plus, some players come back from injury and really hit the ground running whilst others may take a little longer to hit their peak.

When looking at the team analysis as a whole, if there is a common area where performance isn’t quite up to scratch, Lyn can then use that as a focus for extra coaching on the training field whether it be scrum, lineout or the tackle area. That way, systemic as well as individual issues can be addressed.

I get the impression that in certain other sports, some of the more highly paid players can get very precious about perceived criticism of their performance.

Luckily, rugby players are a pretty honest bunch and are happy to take constructive criticism and constantly work to improve their game – even those at the top end of the sport.

Once this has been done, we get a few weeks off to do all those things that you don’t get to do during the season like spending quality time with friends and family, reading, watching films, etc.

But working at the top end of the sport isn’t so much a job, more of a lifestyle choice, and I’ll watch the Super 15s and of course, this year we’ve got a Lions tour to look forward to. What’s great about that is that I can watch it as a fan and not worry about analysing it – though of course you do pick up the odd titbit that you might want to incorporate!

Like the players, analysts also have to put in a good shift during pre-season in order to reap the benefits later in the year. Players will be doing a lot of strength, fitness and skills work and I will be filming, coding and naming a lot of patterns and plays so that we can go through them and refine them at subsequent training sessions.

This is more of a visual analysis than statistics based and all working towards the goal of hitting that first game running.

Outside of working with the players training, I’ll also be working on new coding templates for the upcoming season. If Lyn likes (or doesn’t like) a particular way of looking at things, I’ll be refining and updating these so that he’s happy with the method of reporting by the time the season starts.

It’s crucial that the way the stats are presented is reader and user friendly so coaches and players can understand what is being highlighted and grasp it as quickly as possible. Sheets and sheets of data can be pretty boring to look at!

The pre-season games are also useful for filming and refining the analysis – good practice without the time pressure of league games to worry about. Ultimately, just like the players, I want to be fully prepared and ready for that first game of the season.


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