England vs Australia: Where Were England Dominant on the Road to Victory?

England vs Australia: Where Were England Dominant on the Road to Victory?

Gainline suc­cess

Despite Australia dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion 64% to 36%, the key stat in England’s favor was gain­line suc­cess. England with 90% gain­line Success com­pared to only 65% gain­line suc­cess from Australia.

Achieving gain­line suc­cess and earn­ing the right to play wide leads into the next point of analy­sis: width of attack.

Tackle sequence and com­ple­tion rate

Despite Australia hav­ing a decent tack­le com­ple­tion rate and very good tack­le sequence, they still missed vital tack­les that led to two of England’s tries. 

The below image shows a tack­le matrix pro­duced by Rugby Analytics and Hudl Sportscode, which is able to iden­ti­fy areas of weak­ness in the Australia defen­sive system.

The tack­le matrix is a com­plex table show­ing areas where Australia missed their tack­les with a clear sequence of events that led to England’s first and third tries.

  1. Australia missed 60% of their tack­les where England played phas­es con­sec­u­tive­ly in the same direc­tion with quick ball and with width, mean­ing Australia did not have time to fold defend­ers around the cor­ner and get organ­ised in defence. 

Lack of dom­i­nant tack­les, poor accu­ra­cy at defen­sive rucks as well as England’s vari­a­tion in attack with Owen Farrell direct­ing play as the pri­ma­ry first receiv­er. 40% of his con­tri­bu­tions from this posi­tion con­tributed to these vital tack­les being missed.

The missed tackle matrix output from Hudl Sportscode showing the key tackle stats from the match.

Width of attack

When we look at the aver­age attack­ing width of the two teams, Australia used more width on attack with an aver­age of 7meters how­ev­er the whole pic­ture they attacked 77% of their ball car­ries was with­in 10 meters of the ruck, that played in to the hand of England’s strong defence. (92% Tackle Accuracy). This nar­row attack was also a fac­tor in Australia’s dif­fi­cul­ty to win the gain-line bat­tle as they crashed into tight­ly-defend­ed areas close to the ruck. 

England on the oth­er hand had an aver­age of only 6m attack­ing width but had 36% of those attack­ing plays were between 10 and 25 meters, giv­ing the impres­sion that they want­ed to suck the Australian defend­ers in and expose the space out wide. 

England’s gain line suc­cess and quick ball result­ed in Australia miss­ing impor­tant tack­les that played a part in two of England’s three tries from struc­tured play.

Despite Australia hav­ing a 90% tack­le com­ple­tion, England attacked with an aver­age width of 6m (this is rel­a­tive­ly nar­row com­pared to the RWC aver­age of 9 – 10m). However, 36% of England’s ball car­ries where between 10 and 25 meters, a clear indi­ca­tion that England were able to suck in Australian defend­ers and then exploit the space out wider.

Playing around the corner

If we look at the build-up of the two line­out tries from England, they had a spe­cif­ic plan to suck in defend­ers play­ing off 9 from the edge, mov­ing phas­es by phase around the cor­ner and stretch­ing the Australia defence. This tac­tic was effec­tive in leav­ing Australia over-com­mit­ted on the nearside.

For England’s first try, Australia missed two tack­les out wide on the sec­ond Phase. These missed tack­les allowed England into 22m area with great momen­tum and Australia were unable to recov­er as England’s play­ers played quick­ly the same way to the left again and had a numer­i­cal advantage. 

Despite Australia not miss­ing tack­les dur­ing these phase, the speed of England attack meant Australia were down on numbers.

One phase before England's first try in the left-hand corner. Quick phase ball around the corner stretched the Australian defence to the point where they ran out of numbers.

England’s third try

England third try was basi­cal­ly a repeat of the first try. With England play­ing around the cor­ner until run­ning out of space and then chang­ing direc­tion. Australia missed two tack­les out wide (both by Beale on the 2nd Phase and 5th Phase).

Once again the speed and width of England’s Attack left Australia over-com­mit­ted on the near­side and bunched with­in 10 metres of the ruck. Farrell found Kyle Sinckler with a flat pass in the mid­field to expose this mid­field gap cre­at­ed by bunch­ing too close to the ruck clos­er in.

Australia are bunched close to the ruck and a gap is left in the midfield for Sinckler to target on his way to the line.

Conclusion

It was England’s speed at gen­er­at­ing con­tin­u­ous attack­ing phas­es that caused Australia gen­uine prob­lems in this match — allow­ing them­selves to get across the advan­tage line with reg­u­lar­i­ty and cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties in the wider chan­nels with the Wallaby defence out­num­bered and backpedal­ing out wide. 

It will be inter­est­ing to see how England set out their tac­tics against New Zealand in the semi-final. They can choose to either play a slow­er and struc­tured game which is more low risk against a team that is extreme­ly good at pun­ish­ing errors, or England can take the game to the All Blacks as they did to the Wallabies in this game.