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We’re all consulting our analysts – to get that extra edge over rivals | Shaun Edwards

1st November 2012

Wales are at their camp in Poland again, trying to find the added ingredients to meet the demands of the autumn Test series

Another Test series, another week in Spala, our base in Poland. Why? Well, why are England in Burton? It’s because we both reckon our bases help give us an edge and in Test rugby you need all the edge you can get. Actually, we can quantify it pretty precisely, though I’m not telling you.

There is so much analysis about Test rugby that a lot of it comes on a need-to-know basis and if that sounds a bit hush-hush, a bit cloak and dagger, then sorry. We – or rather the analysts, who do all the hard work – don’t like too many of the nuggets they discover bandied about.

However, the bottom line is that we are looking for at least a 15% edge and we – Wales that is – reckon Spala, with its specialist cryotherapy units, helps and has done time and time again. On the other hand, England clearly think that St George’s Park, just outside Burton upon Trent, with its hydrotherapy suites, biomechanic gyms, video analysis, and especially the altitude chamber does it for them.

Put simply, we know that, compared to club rugby, Tests demand between 15 and 20% more and we have the statistics to prove it, some of which the boys in the back room are allowing me to give.

For a start they know that a player travels 18% further in a Test than in a club game and how far they move in a minute. Clive Woodward was the first to start measuring such things when he put cameras on the roof at Twickenham (I think in the buildup to England’s successful 2003 season). However, with GPS systems and better camera technology, our guys can be so much more precise.

For instance, they expect a player to travel about a kilometre further in a Test match than when playing either Premiership or Pro 12 rugby and they pick up individual likes and dislikes. Everyone can see that the All Black fly-half, Dan Carter, is pretty nifty off both feet, but the analysis shows whether he prefers right or left. And the wing Cory Jane definitely has a favoured weapon of choice when it comes to handing off potential tacklers.

First up Wales face Argentina at the Millennium Stadium on 10 November and we now know, from evidence collected during the Pumas’ first season in the southern hemisphere championship, whether they like to throw long at the lineout, look for their middle jumpers or prefer to drive the line.

In general we know that the ball is in play for about 15% longer in Test rugby, but there are now stats to suggest just how much faster the game is and who the quickest of the quick are. New Zealand, the world champions, complete 60% of their rucks within three seconds, whereas tier two nations – seeds five to eight, currently France, Wales, Ireland and Argentina – complete 30% in the same time.

And that’s not the half of it, although I hope you are beginning to see how thorough this stuff is. In fact, far too thorough for club rugby. I know from my years with Wasps that if you try to provide this level of analysis for between 30 and 35 league games a year, you are talking information overload.

However, for three or four games in a series, that’s something different and the very thoroughness of the operation gives some indication of what the unions that stand behind the national sides are prepared to spend for a winning team.

With that in mind, it was also interesting this week to note Heyneke Meyer, the South Africa coach, apparently casting envious eyes on the All Black approach and in particular the decision to give their captain and inspiration, Richie McCaw, six months off as part of the planning to get such a valued asset through to the next World Cup.

Looking at South Africa’s injury list ahead of their European tour – the hooker Bismarck du Plessis, the lock Andries Bekker, the No8 Pierre Spies, the fly-half Johan Goosen, the centre Frans Steyn and the wing Bryan Habana – and it’s easy to understand the envy. For a man who leads one of the most rugby mad of nations, that’s a real headache and it can’t have helped him one jot to hear that the New Zealand board was also throwing its money around, signing 14 current and recent All Blacks, such as Conrad Smith, Israel Dagg, Ma’a Nonu, Ben Franks, Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read on extended contracts and effectively keeping them safe at home in the runup to 2015. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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