back to article Rugby legend Will Carling tells El Reg: Techie stats bods will love this year's Six Nations

New tech-driven Six Nations stats will "show you which teams are really clinical" at making line breaks inside the opposition's 22, England rugby legend Will Carling has told The Register. The 59-time England captain spoke to El Reg at the launch of the Guinness Six Nations, the premier international tournament in Northern …

  1. macjules Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    AWS-driven tech?

    Perhaps one could say that "Arguing with a referee is like reading the Software Licence Agreement. In the end you have to ignore everything and click I agree."

    (Paris, since we lack a 'tongue in cheek' icon)

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: AWS-driven tech?

      Stuff like this is already used in American Football - more and more head coaches are being described as 'analysis-driven' in that they use endless amounts of time crunching the opposition plays and proclivities.

      Which is all very well until they come up against a really, really good head coach who uses that tendancy against them..

      (Go 49ers! First Superbowl appearance since 2013 - and that was a loss. The only SB appearance where they lost.. I'm hoping that this year they'll win and given how they embarassed Green Bay in the championship game there's a good chance that they will I've been a fan since the late 1980's..)

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    More blah blah blah

    I used to enjoy the Monday night football when I lived in the States hut the two commentators yakking and printouts of performance I found distracting from actually watching the game.

    Looks as though rugby is going to go the same way.

    I hate when stats cover a play so they have to replay it so that you can see what happened.

    I would just like to watch the match

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: More blah blah blah

      I dont think it will go the same way - RU fans seem to be quite conservative and powerfully vociferous. If the stats are of no interest they will be kicked off the screen fairy pronto. Its no-where near as boring as either US or UK football and watching at home or in the pub its only during stretchering off or offscreen activity that commentators are audible,

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: More blah blah blah

        I do hope so. I played and enjoyed rugby and still attend both club matches and an occasional international. I find the US obsession with stats (in both football and baseball) to be puzzling but a largely US one at that. I read a thriller from a US author a couple of months ago in which the credentials of a fan (or the Red Sox I believe) were suspect because she didn't lead conversations about the team with a cornucopia of stats. I don't remember any similar conversations with rugby fans - from any nation. Yes, on television a few stats are thrown up - and promptly ignored by everyone I know in favour of the game. And I am a professional mathematician.

      2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: More blah blah blah

        commentators are audible

        Whenever it's an option I always opt for audio from the ref's mic rather than the TV commentators.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: More blah blah blah

          I always opt for audio from the ref's mic

          It has the added advantage that you can sometimes hear what the players are saying, not to mention who they're swearing at.

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Re: More blah blah blah

      Luckily Rugby Union is a game that's played more or less continuously; American Football and Baseball have lots of pauses that need to be filled up with content.

  3. Fading

    From commentator curse to...

    A.I. stat curse. I can foresee as soon as the kicking stat appears on screen the kicker will manage to do the exact opposite.

    1. Fat_Tony

      Re: From commentator curse to...

      Yep, stats in sport can generally help explain a past outcome but rarely predict a future outcome. There'll be lots of %ages of likelihoods given for predictions, which will just be ignored. So a 80% chance of penalty being successful (+/- 10%) will always be called as 80%

  4. tiggity Silver badge

    So much of rugby is about off the ball movements, if stats relentless track every players position it might show the movement some players put in, because to be in the right place at the right time takes planning / good guesswork as well as running. Could make man of the match awards more likely to be fairly awarded

    But frankly I'm just happy to watch and enjoy the game (too old & slow to play these days)

    1. Stephen Wilkinson

      There was a section on one of the recent BBC Click programmes about the stat use in football (Liverpool possibly, I can't actually remember) and how important it was and they were tracking all the players' positions.

      1. A K Stiles Silver badge

        The most recent Royal Institution Christmas Lectures had a brief bit about how Liverpool FC employ a team of statisticians and they use 'AI' (or machine learning...) to analyse every player's movements and scoring probabilities across vast numbers of games, in order to presumably coach the players better about where their opportunities are best taken. worth a watch if you can find it.

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          if the RI lecture is no longer on iPlayer then it could well be on the RI YouTube channel - beware though, the latter is a rich seam indeed, and I've lost many an hour to viewing stuff from their archive.

        2. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Worth watching just for Dr Hannah Fry, never mind anything else

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Keep my thoughts to yourself ;-)

      2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        There was a section on one of the recent BBC Click programmes about the stat use in football (Liverpool possibly, I can't actually remember) and how important it was and they were tracking all the players' positions

        I suspect that they track the players in rugby too. A while ago I noticed that the players' jerseys seem to have some sort of doo-dah on the back, just above the number, which I assume to be for tracking (probably not GPS - I suspect some RF-based system. Just thinking out loud - if anyone here knows what it actually is I'd be happy to be educated.)

        1. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge

        2. Ken 16 Silver badge

          That's where they put the SIM card when the team changes mobile operator sponsorship.

  5. Caver_Dave


    If they really want to provide all the stats, then put them on an interactive and constantly updated website. Then those who want to watch the game can view the TV and those who want the stats can look at their tablet in conjunction with watching the game on the TV. Choice for the consumer - it won't happen then!

    Icon - rather like the last collision that put me out of the game permanently!

  6. GlenP Silver badge

    Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics...

    Ultimately in Rugby (and any other sport) there's only one statistic that means anything, the final score*.

    Players have been tracked on the field in club and international games for years by a variety of methods, and expert analysts have been providing useful data for coaches over the same period.This is largely, IMHO, a gimmick for the broadcasters and an advert for AWS, and whilst there may be some useful info for the fans it's not going to make the game significantly more enjoyable for the majority..

    *And these days number of tries scored I guess.

    1. FlossyThePig

      Re: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics...

      I remember watching Ireland beat Scotland 21 - 12 in their final match of the 1982 5 Nations and not one try scored by Ireland. A lot of Guiness drunk that night.

      It was at Lansdowne Road before the ground got renamed after the Norwich insurance company

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics...

        That ground doesn't exist any more

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics...

          I hope the hotel just up the road still does. It had a huge bar and loads of screens.

    2. Killing Time

      Re: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics...

      Admittedly the interested audience of this data will only be a subsection of the viewers but with its inherent 'law' complexity the game has always attracted fans of that persuasion. I have lost count of the times I have been in a club or pub watching a game where the subject of conversation during a lull would be the new seasons law change along with how the ref is likely to interpret it.

      Besides, it will provide a handy calibration benchmark for the studio talking heads. It should be easier to establish if they are bigging up their mate, club,country or they actually know what they are talking about and not just talking out of their arse.

  7. MJI Silver badge

    I still remember 20:17

    Good way of shutting up annoying Aussies.

    I remember at primary school that balls were ran with not kicked.

    I also remember that football fans were unusual.

  8. ISYS

    Not of any use to a true fan

    A true fan would know how well each team is doing and doesn't need the points conversion rate inside the 22 displayed to them. Equally we all can see when a kicker is getting more of them over than not. We use our eyes and our memory to achieve both of these amazing feats using real intelligence (not artificial).

    Next thing they will be telling us about the 'Winningest' team and 'yardage'.

    As it was explained to me by a great coach - Rugby is dead simple - get the ball from one end of the field to the other and put it down over the line. He also said it is a game of evasion that just so happens to involve contact but that is a whole different discussion.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will this be as good a job as on the F1 stats??

    tyre wear / degradation percentages showing on the TV feed which were not connected to any actual data provided by teams Pirelli and so are a best guess, and then had to be changed...

  10. koswix

    ""How many line breaks do you make in the 22, how many are converted into points? I think that's a really, really good stat which shows you which teams are really clinical, which teams are converting their chances" into points."

    We've actually had these stats available for a very long time. They're even displayed, in pretty much real time, both on TV and around the grounds. On TV coverage they often use some fancy graphics, where as at the grounds themselves they normally use a fairly old bit of tech known as a 'score board'.

    As for kick prediction - anyone who follows the game reasonably closely can likely perform better than their algorithm. There's only six teams in the 6N (clues in the name), so essentially that's just six players (not accounting for injuries etc) that you really have to get a feel for when it comes to place kicks. I'd say I call 9 out of 10 kicks correctly, and I'm certainly no stats junky and don't follow as closely as many people I know (watch all TV games I can, attend all Murrayfield games with my son).

    Should be even easier, as a Scotland fan, to predict our kicks this season. With our golden-booted Number 9 having retired last month, and fifty-fifty Finn having been sent home from training camp for having one too many on Sunday night, our kicking chance is going to be somewhere around 7%.

    Maybe AWS could devote their marvellous AI to working out how the fork our Chief Exec warranted a million quid pay check, or how our head coach didn't get the boot despite failing to get out of the group stages of the world cup? I guess some questions are just too hard for AI and are better suited to artificial stupidity.

    Beer icon, as rugby cannot exist without it.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Hogg's got a pretty decent boot on him, the 60m attempt for Chiefs the other week was insane.

      1. koswix

        Can be decent, not reliable though. Especially when, in the 6N at least, every opposition's primary tactic for 3 or 4 years against Scotland has been "destroy Hogg and the rest will follow".

  11. Citizen99

    I hate it when commentators talk over the referee's microphone chat, or when the transmission switches to analysis of replays instead of keeping the transmission in real time. If I want to follow or admire their wonderful analysis it's usually available on-line after the match has finished. Even when the game is paused for e.g. an injury I don't need the down-time to be filled with babble.

  12. koswix

    Better idea for tech in sport

    A better idea would be a roll out of Canon's 3d video reconstruction tech. They demoed it at the rugby world cup last year, and some of the footage is frankly astounding. (Google Canon 3D rugby for plenty of examples).

    Any word when something actually interesting and useful like that will be added to the tournament?

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