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Smart Ball insights from Round 4 of the Summer Nations Series

Smart Ball insights from Round 4 of the Summer Nations Series

Fiji v England

The Summer Nations Series has been a great showcase of the variety and quality of rugby that fans can expect to see at the Rugby World Cup. The final round – which boasted five international rugby matches – saw ambitious play rewarded just as much as tactical nous, with some teams able to take significant confidence from their performances in recent weeks, and others increasingly desperate to find form.

With the insights generated by the Smart Ball and presented by Sage, we are able to take a deeper look at exactly how Round 4 played out.

The major headline of the weekend was Fiji’s maiden victory over England at Twickenham. Whilst England have been unable to perform to the level of their constituent parts during the series, Fiji look a dramatically improved outfit.

In their involvement this summer, they seem to be fully exploiting the power, athleticism, and invention
with which they have long been associated.

Testament to this at the weekend was their ability to find their threats on the edges of the pitch: their average pass distance was 7.3 metres, which is longer than the averages of any of the Six Nations during this competition bar Scotland.

Case in point was Waisea Nayacalevu’s try. 43 metres out from the English goal line, Selestino Ravutaumada received a floated 23.1 metre pass from Semi Radradra.

One of Fiji’s plethora of explosive runners, Ravutaumada beat Jonny May on the outside before putting Nayacelevu over the tryline.

@autumnnationsseriesFiji feet 🥶🇫🇯

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Now having climbed above not only England, but pool-stage competitors Wales and Australia in the World Rugby rankings, who knows what Fiji could achieve at the World Cup?

Another team which has asserted itself as a genuine threat – burying any doubts of their status as a tier one rugby nation in recent weeks – is Italy.

Starting their match at the weekend with all of their most capable playmakers – notably Paolo Garbisi, Ange Capuozzo, and Tommaso Allan – Italy dominated a Japanese side which has been famously disruptive in recent Rugby World Cups.

These key players in the Azzurri backline conspired to put Monty Ioane in to score early in the match. 70 metres from the Japanese try line, Varney’s 15 metre pass was then shipped to Capuozzo via Morisi, Garbisi, Ioane, and Allan.

Using his wealth of attacking vision, Capuozzo chipped the ball infield 25 metres for Ioane to charge onto and score.

@autumnnationsseries A classic Ioane finish v Japan 🏉 Varney starts the phase 70m from Japan’s tryline with a 15m pass 🙌Passing through the hands of Morisi, Garbisi, Ioane, Allan then to Capuozzo who chips the ball in field 25m with a 2.4s hang time which bounces for Ioane to score Enter the link in our bio to vote 🗳️ #SageInsights 📊 #SummerNationsSeries #Ad @Sage ♬ son original – Summer Nations Series ⚡️

At the other end of the spectrum – a team with significant expectation placed on their home World Cup
campaign – the final round of the Summer Nations Series saw another assured performance from France.

Yet again, we saw their pragmatism in deciding when to play and when to apply pressure to the opposition.

A product of this strategy, France have averaged just 494 passing metres per match this summer – 171 fewer than the next-lowest average, which belongs to Wales.

However, their star quality remains mind-boggling. Penaud’s try in the 55th minute could only have been scored by France.

A relative newbie in the French 10 jersey, Mathieu Jalibert showed no hesitation in straightening up
to take on two Australian defenders on the fringe of the opposition 22.

Getting the offload away to oncoming midfield menace Gael Fickou, the following ruck gave Antoine Dupont ample time to identify the space and feed Penaud with a 25.1 metre, 42 kph cross-field kick, lofted in the air for 2.15 seconds on its way to the corner flag.

Antoine Dupont Crossfield Kick

Another team which delivers an exhilarating attack based on individual skill is Scotland. As was the case in the Guinness Six Nations, Scotland finished their Summer Nations Series having averaged more passing metres per match than any other team: an impressive 1,233.

In fact, Scotland are the only of the Six Nations who averaged more than 1,000 passing metres per game. The heartbeat of this expansive attack? Who other than Finn Russell, whose average pass distance was 8.2 metres throughout this Series.

Scotland’s performances this summer – which have been incredibly encouraging – have hardly been
one-man-shows though.

Ben Healy is a great example of a World Cup bolter, with the young playmaker impressing when given opportunities in the Summer Nations Series.

He demonstrated his ability to take the reins of the Scottish backline against Georgia, delivering the incisive 24.6 metre, 52.2 kph pass which saw Duhan van der Merwe claim his second try of the match.

Scotland – like other Summer Nations Series competitors – have persisted with a game plan that harnesses their individual talents, and hence have a definite sense of identity.

Top 5 Longest Passes

Similarly assured in the way they approach their rugby, Ireland’s victory over Samoa at the weekend was another example of the law of averages favouring their patient, pressurising style of play.

In a tight, conservative match, Ireland narrowly beat Samoa in terms of territory gain, accumulating 849 metres to their opponent’s 826.

In fact, Ireland have averaged more territory gain per match than any of the other Six Nations teams (871). In a less extravagant fashion than their competitors, the World’s number one ranked team were yet again assured that their method yields results.

With only the Rugby World Cup left to consider, the tension and excitement surrounding the game’s most famous competition continues to grow. Who will flourish? Who will flounder?

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