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Lies, damned lies and the statistics that show Ireland should have lost to South Africa

The Offload: Splendid defensive breakdown at work derails Boks; versatile Eddie Jones; Ian Madigan rocks on; Rassie Erasmus; and a numbers game

Stats don’t lie. Or do they? By nearly all metrics, Ireland should not have won on Saturday evening at the Rugby World Cup.

An obvious statistical starting point lies with the kicking tee. South Africa’s four missed kicks — all in the second half — cost them 11 points. They lost by five. Elsewhere, Ireland’s lineout, the pillar of their much-heralded attack, plummeted to a 67 per cent success rate with six lost balls, the joint most of any side in a match so far in the tournament.

The attacking breakdown, another vital element of Mike Catt’s system, was at times a bloodbath. Ireland’s average ruck speed at this tournament before Saturday was 2.92 seconds per breakdown. Against South Africa, it jumped to 4.83 seconds with just 16 per cent of rucks lasting less than two seconds. Yes, Ireland played weaker opposition prior to Saturday, but it’s not as if Tonga offered zero defensive breakdown threat.

A major part of their breakdown success was South Africa’s ability to dominate collisions. They made 30 dominant tackles, the highest figure of the tournament by 11, restricting Ireland to just a 40 per cent gain-line success rate. Ireland made the third-fewest metres in attack of any match in the tournament (226) and only scored one point for every entry into the 22.


With their attack, South Africa comfortably made more metres and beat more tacklers on significantly fewer carries than Ireland. In other words, South Africa were more efficient with ball in hand while shutting down the two key pillars of Ireland’s attack, but still lost. Stats, who needs them?

Some numbers that might explain how Ireland did it? Ireland’s defensive breakdown work was exemplary, forcing seven turnovers, the most of any team in any match this World Cup. South Africa also coughed up nine penalties while defending. They came out on the wrong side of the risk-reward ratio of disrupting Ireland’s ball to irking referee Ben O’Keefe.

Eddie on the move?

Talk about the perfect time to release a story. Eddie Jones would have woken up this morning in Lyon to see the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that as recently as August, when he was in France warming up for this World Cup with the Wallabies, Jones held a Zoom interview for the Japan job. Current Japan boss Jamie Joseph departs the role after the tournament. Jones previously led Japan to their famous win over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

The news broke on the same day Australia, who lost to Fiji last week, were playing Wales in a crunch pool match in Lyon.

Penny for your thoughts, Aussie fans?

The reporter, Tom Decent, said on Twitter that the story is “100 per cent correct.” In the report, Jones and Rugby Australia say otherwise. Last Friday, Jones told reporters that he was focused on Sunday’s meeting with Wales, nothing further. “I want to coach as best as I can on Sunday,” he said. “That’s all I can say. That’s the only job I’ve got at the moment.”

Jones took up the Australia job eight months ago when Dave Rennie was sacked. The move surprised many in global rugby circles as Australia joined England in going against the conventional wisdom of World Cup planning by changing coaches less than a year out from the tournament. Jones’s current contract with the Wallabies lasts five years, leaving him in charge for the 2025 Lions tour and 2027 World Cup, both on Australian soil.

According to the report, Jones was open to meeting representatives of the Japan Rugby Union in person in France with a view to a second interview.

Last week, Jones dismissed reports in Japanese media that he was in the frame as “bullshit and gossip.” Oh to be a fly on the wall inside the Australian camp on Sunday.

Coach Madigan

For all the talk of one Irish outhalf’s impending retirement and future career plans, a former understudy has moved into coaching after hanging up his boots. Ian Madigan, formerly Johnny Sexton’s back-up with both Leinster and Ireland, didn’t take long to announce his new coaching gig with Blackrock Rugby Club less than a week after announcing his retirement.

“Ian has a rich history in Blackrock having started his adult playing career in the club,” said director of rugby Mick Hearty. “He made a huge impact on and off the field and we are thrilled to welcome him back to the club.”

Madigan’s new role is to serve as attack coach for the club’s men’s and women’s first XVs. He looks set for a semi-regular commute down the M1 having stated in his retirement statement last week that he would continue to live in Belfast “for the foreseeable” having ended his playing career with Ulster.

On the women’s side, Madigan will have to wait to make his coaching bow until next weekend with Blackrock on a bye-week in the AIL.

Elsewhere in Round 2 of the competition, UL Bohs, Railway and Old Belvedere all secured comfortable home wins against Galwegians, Cooke and Wicklow respectively. The most competitive action of the weekend came in Cork where Ballincolig suffered a narrow 5-12 defeat at home to Suttonians.


“Also nice to be involved in a game so intense and physical without the referee getting too much involved!” — I know he’s trying to be nice, but Rassie talking about referees just? It never will not arouse suspicion.

Number — 20

The number of years since the last occasion one player scored five tries at a men’s World Cup match. Henry Arundell’s exploits for England vs Chile matched his compatriot Josh Lewsey’s efforts from 2003 when playing Uruguay.