The Rugby Championships 2014 – A Statistical Review


The Rugby Championship, contested between Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, has been in existence for three years. Over this period, there has been one constant:


  •  The domination of the tournament by New Zealand.


A second constant has been the challenge facing Argentina in a competition that comprises three of the top four teams in the IRB World Rankings.


In 2014, while New Zealand continued to top the table and Argentina remained fourth, there were some significant results:


  •  New Zealand were beaten for the first time in the three years.
  •  Argentina won their first match.


Despite their one defeat, however, New Zealand continued their domination of The Rugby Championship. Over the three-year period that the competition has been played:


  •  New Zealand won 16 of 18 matches. (One loss and one draw.)
  •  New Zealand won 13 of those 16 matches by 10 or more points.
  •  New Zealand also scored 25 per cent more tries than their nearest rival.
  •  They were also the best defensive team conceding at least 20 per cent fewer tries than any of their opponents.


A summary of the competition over the last three years shows the following:


All four teams played 18 matches.


New Zealand won 16.

South Africa won 10.

Australia won 7.

Argentina won 1.


New Zealand won 13 of their 16 games by more than 10 points.

South Africa won 6 of their 10 wins by more than 10 points.

Australia won 1 of their 7 wins by more than 10 points.

The Argentine have not won a game by more than 10 points.


New Zealand scored 540 points whilst conceding 272. They scored 60 tries while conceding just 23.


South Africa scored 451 points and conceded 336. Scoring 48 tries and conceding 36.


Australia conceded 467 points and scored just 349, scoring 29 tries but conceding 40.


The Argentine conceded 547 points while scoring 270. They scored 23 tries and conceded 58.


One interesting statistic that emerged from the 2014 Championship was that it was far more competitive than previous seasons, with 8 matches having a scoring margin of 10 or fewer points. 67% of the games played had a points spread of less than 10, compared to 2013 where only 17% of the games had a points spread of less than 10, and 50% of the games played in 2012 had a less that 10 spread.


How does the Rugby Championship compare to the Six Nations?


With less than a year to go until Rugby World Cup 2015, an exercise was undertaken to compare the shape of the game between the two major annual competitions, the Six Nations and The Rugby Championship. We Southern Hemisphereans like to suggest that our Rugby Championship is superior to the Six Nations in almost every aspect of the game.


Interestingly, the stats do not support our arrogance!


In the 2014 Six Nations there were 15 games played, while the Rugby Championships (RC) produced 12 games.


Six Nations (6N) games produced an average of 40 points per game, with 4 tries per game.


RC averaged 43 points per game and, wait for it 4 tries per game!


51% of 6N points came from tries, while 48% of RC points were scored through crossing the try line!


The 6N kept the ball in play for 46% of the time, while the RC saw the ball in play for 42% of the time.


6N games produced an average of 282 passes per game, whilst the RC produced 272 passes per game.


6N had 182 rucks/mauls per game, while the RC had 166.


6N teams kicked the ball 46 times per game, while the RC teams kicked it 44 times.


Lineouts were pretty similar, 27 per game in the 6N and 26 per game in the RC.


Scrums followed a similar pattern, 13 per 6N game , and 12 per RC game.


6N team conceded 21 penalties per game, while RC team conceded 23.


Both competitions produced the damning statistic of an average of 8 yellow cards per game, which is a reflection on the ease with which referees produce the yellow and interfere with the actual competition on the field of play. The 6N also saw 3 red cards, whilst the RC none.


Based on the statistical evidence there is very little to choose between the game played in the two hemispheres. Of course this does not suggest that the level of competition is similar, simply that the game is played in much the same way both north and south of the equator.


2014 Rugby Championships



  • New Zealand won four of their six matches, scoring 18 tries.
  • New Zealand lost their first match since the formation of The Rugby Championship.
  • Argentina won their first match in The Rugby Championship with a four-point victory against Australia in Mendoza.
  • The home team won nine of the 12 matches, the away team won two and there was one draw.
  • There were no tries in the Australia v New Zealand match, making it the first match without a try in the history of The Rugby Championship.
  • 50 per cent of matches were won by the team scoring the most tries. There was one draw and in five matches tries were equal. No match was won by the team scoring fewer tries.
  • Fifty tries were scored and 63 penalty goals were kicked compared to 66 tries and 66 penalty goals in 2013.
  • There were five matches with a margin of five points or less; the highest margin was 31 points (New Zealand v Australia).
  • 70% of tries were scored by backs, 28% by forwards and 2% were penalty tries.
  • 48% of tries originated from lineout possession and 18% from scrum possession.
  • 38% of tries started from inside the scoring teams own half.
  • 62% of tries were preceded by two or fewer phases and 42 per cent of tries by three or fewer passes.
  • Average ball in play time was 33m 44s or 42 per cent.
  • In the South Africa v Australia match the ball was in play 55 per cent. In the 44 minutes, there were 387 passes and 272 ruck/mauls.
  • In contrast, in the South Africa v Argentina match the ball was in play 38 per cent or 30 minutes, resulting in 145 passes and 130 ruck/mauls.
  • The most kicks in a match was 73 (RSA v ARG) and the least was 24 (ARG v AUS).
  • Australia were involved in three of the four matches which contained the fewest kicks.
  • There were only two scrum tightheads and four free kicks for crooked feed. Tightheads were conceded by Australia and Argentina, both to New Zealand.
  • 47% of penalties/free kicks were at tackle/ruck, with 62% in favour of the team in possession.
  • 21 per cent of penalty kicks/free kicks were at the scrum, with 62 per cent of penalty/free kicks in favour of the team in possession.
  • This year there were eight yellow cards and no red cards awarded, which was 11 yellow cards and one red card fewer than last year.
  • There were 33 TMO referrals of which 16 were try referrals, 15 were foul play referrals and two were touchdown referrals.
  • Neither South Africa nor New Zealand conceded a try from turn-over possession.
  • New Zealand dominated the lineout statistics, winning 89% of their own ball, versus South Africa’s 86%. Argentina retained 84% of their own ball, and Australia 81% at the lineout.
  • The ruck/maul success rate was pretty similar for all the teams. Argentina won 95% of their own rucks/mauls, with Australia second on 94%, South Africa 3rd at 93% and New Zealand 4th at 92%.
  • An important ruck/maul stat is that both New Zealand and South Africa had a 7% success rate at turning over opposition ball.
  • Australia’s scrums had a collapse rate almost twice that of New Zealand and that Argentina’s scrums saw a penalty and free-kick rate that was almost 50 per cent greater than the scrums of the other teams.





The Rugby Championship in 2013 was the first international competition to implement the ”crouch, bind, set” scrum engagement sequence. The expectation was that the requirement that props must bind correctly on the referee’s command and that the ball be fed correctly into a stationary scrum could also result in less disrupted and more orderly scrums.


A comparison of between the 2013 and 2014 scrums, however, shows that little has improved:


  •  The rate of collapses has increased
  •  The rate of resets has increased
  •  Penalties and free kicks showed little reduction.


77 out of every 100 scrums collapsed at some stage during the scrum.

39 out of every 100 scrums had to be reset.

38 out of every 100 scrums resulted in a Penalty or Free-kick.

Only 62% of all scrums produced a ball out and into play.


These bald statistics do not tell the entire story.


Australia were by far the biggest problem at scrum time.


Fully 100 out of every 100 scrums awarded to Australia collapsed, with 51 having to be reset. They also conceded a penalty or free-kick in 38 out of every 100 scrums they participated in.


The Argentine team had the next worst collapse rate at 88 out of 100, with 50 resets and 50 penalties or free-kicks against them.


South Africa had a collapse rate of 68 out of 100 and New Zealand just 55 out of 100. Both teams had low reset stats at 37 and 21 respectively, and a ball retention rate of 68% each.


Scrums are a real problem, and the continuing intervention of the referees and the law-makers is rapidly neutering an important aspect of the game, causing constant confusion amongst the players and spectating public. Perhaps it is time to revert to the old style of scrumming that gave very little cause for concern for close to 50 years?


As an aside, Australia’s record is the worst in the world, wit a 100% collapse rate, Italy are far and away the best with a collapse rate of just 48%.




South Africa conceded the least penalties and free kicks in the competition, just 59 in the entire competition, whilst being awarded the least too, at 65.


The Argentine were next best, conceding 65 and being awarded 73.


New Zealand conceded 66 penalties and were awarded 72.


Australia again lead the stats with penalties against, 77, while being awarded just 69.




The 2014 competition saw 31 referrals to the TMO, with 16 for adjudication of tries, with 15 for possible Foul Play.


Each referral took an average of 65 seconds. At an average of 2,6 referrals per match that added around 170 seconds to each game played.