When you look at games played on a Saturday, it’s the training on Monday to Thursday where games are won - Suntory Sungoliath head coach Milton Haig. In part two of this three-part series, we look closely into how this mainstay of Japanese professional rugby executes training processes using analysis technology. 

For Haig and his coaching staff, the week begins by formulating a strategy to tackle the next opponent on the Japanese Top League schedule.

“The first thing I do when I sit at my desk in the morning is look at our next opponent next week,” said Haig. “We look at their patterns of play, the style of how they play, the certain threats that they have in terms of their attack, and also at how they defend. This allows us to form a picture to then come up with a solution of how we are going to play the next opposition.”

Suntory use Hudl Sportscode to code a range of instances from training sessions. There are around 20 different areas that are covered by this coding process which are shared automatically with players and staff throughout the club for feedback and analysis purposes.

“First, we upload the codes we created on Hudl Sportscode to the Hudl online platform, then the players and staff can check them on whichever device they choose anytime and anywhere they want,” said Jun Sudo, Head Analyst at Suntory Sungoliath. “These codes are also in sync with the computers at the clubhouse which means the players can review their performances at any time. Even during practice, feedback can be delivered instantly, and that can help the players improve their skills directly.”

Analysis coded on the Suntory training ground using Hudl Sportscode syncs directly with devices in the clubhouse for instant review.

Rugby consists of several specific and unique areas of play, for example, the set piece areas of scrums, lineouts and restarts. These can be broken down effectively using codes taken from Hudl Sportscode. 

“I spend a lot of time looking at our stats, but among the most important would be our set piece quality,” said Haig. “How accurate we are from our scrums, lineouts, and kickoffs, how the opposition organize themselves, how we can counter their shape, and also how well we are carrying the ball across the gain line.”

Tackle completion is another key statistic for the Suntory team. “I'm a bit of a stickler for tackle completion,” said Haig. “It’s really important as, you can measure the winning or losing of a match against this metric. In a winning game, you’ll more often than not find you’re in around the late eighties to early nineties for tackle completion.”

Suntory filming a training session from a high angle. This footage feeds directly into the analyst's laptop as he live codes the sessions.

To feed into analysis software, you first need footage, ideally high quality footage. Suntory have a live capture setup using both pitchside cameras and a drone, which link directly to Hudl Sportscode for the analyst to code live.

“For practice, we set up a live capture and use a drone,” said Sudo. “I need to give feedback as quick as possible, sometimes immediately. so I code a live video feed during our practice. Later, I share a video package with the coaches and players.”

“Video plays a pivotal role in looking at different parts of our game, at the areas that we're doing really well, but also highlighting some of the things that we're not doing so well,” said Haig. 

“Because you can slow things down frame by frame with video, it allows us to absolutely see detail quite clearly and to translate information into corrective performance at training, and then hopefully into high-performance once we get to game day.”

Head Coach Milton Haig addresses his troops, including high-profile signing Beauden Barrett, following a daily session.

When you look at games played on a Saturday, it’s your training on Monday to Thursday where games are won,” said Haig. “If the players understand their role at any given minute within the game structure, that's really important, and we can see that through video analysis. Helping players correct role performance, which then becomes team performance, is absolutely key to winning matches.” 

“I'd say it's all coming down to video analysis now,” said Sudo. “There's not a day we don't see or use the video footage. Video analysis is fundamental to what we do.”

We move on to match day in the final part of this series, where we look at how Suntory use analysis in live match environments. 

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