Jan 26, 2021

Why defence and kicking were key to World Cup success!

Photo Credit: David Ramos – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

COACHES CORNER with Katleho Lynch

I have watched all the play off games at the World Cup and will clearly admit that there was a close relation to kicking, territory and defence. Teams were pinning opposition back by using the box kick or kicking off 10 to gain territory and back a good chase and tackles to get the ball back and go and score in the opposition half.

Below are some stats from the quarterfinals;

New Zealand: possession 50% territory 65%

Ireland: possession 50% territory 35%

Kicking metres: New Zealand 684m, Ireland 481m

New Zealand most tackles made: Sam Whitelock 17 (Total tackles 179, tackles missed 10)

Ireland most tackles made: CJ Stander 22 (Total tackles 198, tackles missed 27)

Outcome: Kicking metres, territory and high pressure defence showing the difference between winning and losing.

England vs Australia

England: possession 43% territory 51%

Australia: possession 57% territory 49%

Kicking metres: England 716m Australia 347m

England most tackles made: Jamie George 23, Underhill 21,(Total tackles 213, tackles missed 22)

Australia most tackles made: David Pocock 10 ( Total tackles 99, tackles missed 10)

Outcome: Kicking metres once again showing that England wanted to apply pressure in Australia’s half. Keeping Australia in their half and forcing them with defence to get the ball back or tempting them to run it back out from their own half.

Japan vs South Africa

Japan: possession 44% territory 37%

South Africa: possession 56% territory 63%

Kicking metres: Japan 407m South Africa 637m

Japan most tackles made: James Moore 15 ( Total tackles made 114, tackles missed 24)

South Africa most tackles made: Damien De Allende 21 ( Total tackles made 171, tackles missed 19)

Outcome: Not only did South Africa dominate kicking metres, but absolutely controlled territory and possession. Japan tried to have a go at them but South African defence was too strong.

England vs New Zealand

England: possession 53% territory 64%

New Zealand: possession 47% territory 35%

Kicking metres: England 900m New Zealand 625m

England most tackles made: George Ford 17 and Sam Underhill 17 ( Total tackles made 174, tackles missed 33 (System orientated)

New Zealand most tackles made: Ardie Savea 20 ( Total tackles 191, tackles missed 16)

Outcome: New Zealand were out-kicked and England defended them completely out of the game. New Zealand found themselves constantly having to get out of their half.

South Africa vs Wales

Wales: possession 62% territory 50%

South Africa: possession 38% territory 50%

Kicking metres: Wales 863m South Africa 862m

Wales most tackles made: Justin Tupiric 10 ( Total tackles 80, tackles missed 11)

South Africa most tackles made: Peter Steph du Toit 21 ( Total tackles 167, tackles missed 5)

Outcome: This was a closely contested game with two teams who probably kicked the most. Thank you to Flo Louw who got that last breakdown penalty for Pollard to slot it in. Territory was even but Wales had the most possession and failed to score more points than South Africa.

The Final

South Africa: possession 46% territory 57%

England: possession 54% territory 43%

Kicking metres: South Africa 546m England 586m

South Africa most tackles made: Franco Mostert 16 ( Total tackles made 170, tackles missed 16)

England most tackles made: Maro Itoje 12 ( Total tackles made 100, tackles missed 7)

Outcome: Kicking metres was about similar both teams rely on kicking to contest or put you in the corner. South Africa dominated territory, defended for multiple phases to keep England out and put them under pressure.

The above stats paint a picture of how kicking with a good chase and a high pressure defence can put you ahead of opposition. Territory is key to putting pressure on your opponents and playing rugby where you can get to the strike zone by scoring a try or keeping the score board ticking with the 3 points. The two sides with the best kicking game and defence contested the final. With all the teams that won we can clearly see they are dominating the territory stats as well as the kicking metres, which offers them more opportunity of scoring and putting opposition under pressure in their own half. With the games where kicking metres measured was close, you can also see that the team that won the game had dominated territory and defence. Will this be the trend in 2020 – territory, kicking to contest and corners and a high pressure chase line?

Well done to South Africa on doing the above consistently well to win the World Cup! An 18 month project planned and executed to perfection! It does not have to be pretty, it just has to bring positive outcomes and that it did!

Written by:
Katleho Lynch
Director of Rugby at St John’s College