Stats, talking points, data visualisation and predictions. That’s what you can expect from our weekly Rugby World Cup data recap. Time to dig into Round 3.
Round 3 of the 2023 Rugby World Cup saw heavyweight clashes, resounding wins, and last-gasp drama. We dive deep into the data behind three of those fixtures, but give insights into every match over the last week, as well as an update on our tournament predictor.
Georgia 18-18 Portugal
Georgia and Portugal played out just the fourth draw in men’s Rugby World Cup history. It was perhaps the most dramatic of those four matches too, with both sides missing opportunities to win late on.
After rolling over for a late equalising try, Georgia missed the resulting conversion before Portugal won a penalty at the death, but once again the kick drifted agonisingly wide.
When the dust settles Portugal will likely be the happier of the two sides. Although they couldn’t hold on for the win, their fightback from 13-0 down to lead 18-13 showed great resilience as they avoided defeat in a World Cup match for the first time.
South Africa 8-13 Ireland
Some of the collisions in the Springboks’ clash with Ireland were so earth-shattering they may well have registered on the Richter scale. In total, the Springboks made 32 dominant tackles in this game, the most ever recorded by Opta for a Tier 1 nation.
Littered amongst the huge physicality was plenty of high-quality rugby, but it was the missed opportunities that grabbed the headlines. Ireland’s set piece was wobbly and they lost six lineouts – their most in a Test since November 2010 when they lost six against the same opposition. It might have been the main talking point had Ireland not managed to win the game.
Instead, the spotlight was on South Africa’s kicking woes – they missed four, the joint most by any team in a match at this World Cup, alongside South Africa’s four misses against Scotland, and South Africa’s four misses against Romania… It’s a theme that will give Jacques Nienaber some thinking to do ahead of a likely quarter-final showdown with hosts France.
Ireland have now won their last 16 Tests. Of Tier 1 nations only New Zealand (three times), South Africa and England have won more in a row. Should Ireland defeat Scotland and go on to win their quarter-final they would overtake all three teams. After their win against the ‘Boks, that must be the minimum objective for Andy Farrell’s men.
Wales 40-6 Australia
Wales rounded off the weekend in style with a resounding win against two-time champions Australia. Wales’ 34-point win was their biggest win in a Test against the Wallabies and also represented Australia’s heaviest defeat in Rugby World Cup history. Ironically, their previous record was inflicted by an Eddie Jones-coached England team in 2019.
Many of the head-to-head stats from the game don’t really suggest such a comfortable win for one side. Australia made four more carries than Wales during the game (98-94), gained more metres and beat more defenders than Wales, while they made just one line break fewer than Warren Gatland’s side.
However, they conceded 12 penalties – three more than Wales – with three-quarters of those coming inside their own half. That allowed Gareth Anscombe to build up a lead from the tee and saw him end the game with 23 points, the joint most by a Wales player in a Rugby World Cup match alongside Dan Biggar (23 vs. England in 2015), who he replaced at the beginning of the game.
Wales gave themselves more scoring opportunities during the game and took them with greater efficiency, making 11 entries into the Wallabies’ 22 and averaging 2.8 points per entry. That was a stark contrast to Australia’s four entries at an average of 0.8 points per entry.
Wales have slowly picked up momentum in this year’s Rugby World Cup and could well peak at the right time to mount a serious challenge for the Webb Ellis Cup.
Other Fixtures Round-Up
Italy 38-17 Uruguay
Less than a week after giving the hosts a scare in their own backyard, a Uruguay side brimming with confidence took on Italy.
Once again, Los Teros showed the world just what they’re capable of and went into the half-time break leading the Azzurri by 10 points. It was just the fourth time they’d led after the opening 40 minutes of a Rugby World Cup game. They went on to win on the first three occasions, but this would be the first time they’d led at half time and failed to go on and win, as Italy staged an impressive fightback of their own.
Despite two defeats, it’s been a successful World Cup so far for Uruguay, while Italy go into their penultimate pool game with New Zealand next week having picked up maximum points so far.
France 96-0 Namibia
After failing to pick up the try bonus point one week earlier against Uruguay, France weren’t risking the same outcome in their match against Namibia, picking a first-choice team to face the Welwitschias. It paid off on the scoreboard as France recorded their biggest-ever Test victory but not in terms of the squad’s injury status, as talismanic scrum-half Antoine Dupont picked up an injury that could derail France’s World Cup.
France have now won their last 17 games on home soil, but few have seen them pay a higher price during that run.
Argentina 19-10 Samoa
‘One for the purists’ is how you might describe Argentina’s win against Samoa. The weather played its part as both teams hit double figures for handling errors and conceded over 15 turnovers each in total. Argentina did cause more problems with ball in hand though, beating 35 defenders in total, while their set pieces gave them a reliable platform to work from as they became the first team to record a 100% set-piece success rate in a game at this year’s tournament.
England 71-0 Chile
Chile went toe to toe with England for the opening 20 minutes, before Henry Arundell dotted down after a quarter of the match to open the scoring. After that, it was a routine win for England, who saw their attack really click for the first time this tournament.
Arundell went on to score five tries, becoming only the fourth player to manage that in a men’s Rugby World Cup match. In the process, he became the second-youngest player to score 3+ tries in a match at the tournament.
The youngest to do so? The great Jonah Lomu.
Scotland 45-17 Tonga
Given the events of the evening before, Scotland went into their match against Tonga knowing that five match points were required to keep their tournament alive.
Seven tries later and it was job done for Gregor Townsend’s men, who beat 48 defenders on the day, Scotland’s most in a World Cup match. Duhan van der Merwe beat 14 of those himself. Only three players have bettered that at the tournament.
Despite defeat to Ireland at the weekend, Opta’s tournament predictor still gives South Africa the highest likelihood of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup next month, although Ireland sit right behind the ‘Boks. The predictor suggests that the most likely final is a repeat of Saturday’s blockbuster affair.
Elsewhere, England have the highest likelihood of reaching the semi-finals, given they are now virtually guaranteed a place in the knockouts and will avoid the top four teams in the world in the quarters.
Wales – who are through to the quarter-finals – have seen a rise in their likelihood of winning the entire competition. The predictor believes they have a 41% chance of reaching the semi-finals, but gives them less than a one in 10 chance of progressing to the final (8.1%).