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Smart Ball insights from the Summer Nations Series

Smart Ball insights from the Summer Nations Series

Smart Ball insights from the Summer Nations Series

Four years in the planning for the world’s premier rugby teams, the final preparations for the Rugby World Cup are afoot.

Ever unpredictable, the world rugby stage has changed drastically since 2019, with new talents, new tactics, and new challenges facing all national teams.

Over the next four weeks, the final fixtures prior to the tournament’s onset will give a good indication of the pecking order leading into rugby’s greatest event.

Scotland and Italy were first up to make their statement.


Ben Healy – Player of the Match in the first Summer Nations Series fixture – seamlessly took the reins of the Scottish backline last weekend.

Delivering an assured performance – particularly with his booming right boot – the young Munster playmaker orchestrated the Scottish backline whose width and attacking mindset was so impressive in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

For those who didn’t get the luxury of watching the Scottish attack in action earlier this year, the Smart Ball and the insights presented by Sage elucidated the quality of the edge-to-edge attack which saw them be so competitive in the Championship.

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Scotland averaged more passing metres per match (1,064), the longest passes (7.5 metres), and the fastest passes (36 kph) in a competition which unprecedentedly included the two finest teams in the world: Ireland and France, both of whom begin their World Cup warm-up fixtures this weekend.

The talisman for the Scots was the mercurial Finn Russell, who individually had the longest average pass of all the Six Nations fly-halves during the campaign: 9.1 metres.

However, this ambition was met with a good deal of pragmatism, with Russell putting boot to ball as often as any other fly-half during the tournament, an average of 9.3 times per match.

Healy’s point of difference at the weekend was his ability to assume this responsibility for game management.

The average territory gain from his kicks was 37.5 metres, but he walloped the ball 49.6 and 53.8 metres downfield with two monstrous penalty kicks to touch; his eyecatching spiral 50/22 marched his team 48.9 metres in pure forward progress.

Not lacking the spatial awareness of the incumbent Russell, he also delivered a 31.7 metre crossfield kick to welcome Darcy Graham back into the international game with a try-scoring opportunity. 


Healy’s performance is a great example of what makes the Summer Nations Series such an exciting period in the World Cup cycle.

For many young players, this is an opportunity to put their best foot forward to represent their country on rugby’s biggest stage.

Epitomised by Healy’s performance, this is no more applicable than to the fly-halves desperate to impress this summer.

Ntamack and Jalibert, Biggar and Anscombe, Sexton and Carberry, Farrell and Smith, Allan and Garbisi, Russell and Healy, master and apprentice.

A team’s fly-half is often the attacking and defensive orchestrator, a berth reserved for the only most tactically prescient players.

For all the nations lacing their boots this weekend, ’10 is a ferociously competitive position, with impressive depth a feature of all of the Six Nations teams.


Selection in the immediate build-up to a World Cup campaign is often fickle, but whoever lines up in the 10 jersey for each country, they will inevitably have a decisive impact on their team’s fortunes.

During the Guinness Six Nations the Smart Ball insights presented by Sage show as that fly-halves accounted for over 59% of all kicking metres, and for nearly 18% of all passing metres.

A notable performance – such as Ben Healy’s – in this key position could not only shape the course of the weekend’s rugby, but could define a nation’s World Cup campaign this autumn.

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