Rugby statistics: Nadolo set to probe Leinster weakness out wide
Leo Cullen’s side have conceded six tries to wingers in five previous pool games
Montpellier’s Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo has a good try-scoring record against Leinster. Photograph: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty
Did you know that Leinster were susceptible to conceding tries to wings in the first five rounds of this season’s Champions Cup, that 11 of the 14 tries Ulster have amassed to date in the tournament have been claimed by backs.
Or were you aware that the Munster forwards are as prolific as the backs when it comes to the try-scoring stakes?
Well you are now.
Going into the weekend’s final pool matches, Leinster, who travel to Montpellier, having already qualified for the knock-out stage of the competition securing a home quarter-final, are keen to end a three-season hiatus without a victory in France.
The Irish province have lost and drawn their two most recent matches at the Altrad Stadium on a pitch that boasts a heavy, cloying surface and so they will be keen to avoid a forward-oriented arm-wrestle. As the tournament’s top try scorers (19), Leo Cullen’s side has embraced an entertaining yet ruthlessly effective style of rugby; the steel fist and the velvet glove.
That’s reflected in the try-scoring statistics, an 11-8 split in terms of backs and forwards, with outhalf Jonathan Sexton leading the way from an individual perspective with three.
On the other side of the ball, Leinster have conceded 10 tries in five matches, seven to backs and six of which were scored by wings Nemani Nadolo (2), Niko Matawalu (2), James Short and Tommy Seymour.
Montpellier’s giant Fijian Nadolo will cast a long shadow again on Saturday. The French Top 14 leaders have scored 16 tries and he accounts for six and, even more relevantly, he’s crossed for four tries in his last three games against Leinster. Oh, and they are likely to have former Ulster and Springboks scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar available after an injury layoff.
Vern Cotter’s side though have leaked 20 tries – only Glasgow and Northampton have shipped more – and of those, they have given up six to opposing backrow forwards and five to wingers.
Munster are next up when they host Castres Olympique at Thomond Park on Sunday (1.0), knowing that a victory will be enough to confirm them as pool winners. The two sides drew 17-17 on the opening weekend of the competition.
There is a curious symmetry to the statistics governing the campaign to date, Johann van Graan’s team splitting in half the try-scoring honours, six to the backs, six to the forwards and similar equanimity in defence with a four/four divvy-up; Munster have conceded the fewest tries (eight) in the tournament.
Simon Zebo (2) is the only Munster player to touch down for more than one try while of the 12 the province have scored, the backrow trio of Peter O’Mahony, Chris Cloete and CJ Stander with one apiece are front-runners in terms of a unit within the team.
Castres have accumulated the majority of tries through the three-quarter line, 11 of 13, but are also vulnerable out wide in defence with nine of 14 conceded to fullbacks and wings.
Ulster have the toughest remit as they have been sent to Coventry on Sunday (3.15) where they must beat Wasps and while there is a mathematical permutation by which the English club can qualify for the playoffs, their coach Dai Young has dismissed the notion as fanciful in the wake of the heartbreaking last -gasp defeat to Harlequins last weekend.
However Wasps possess one of the sharpest backlines in the tournament and are particular effective off set piece platforms. They are the joint second highest try scorers (17) alongside Saracens and the Ospreys so it was a real testament to the manner in which Ulster defended when the sides met in Belfast last October that they managed to prevent the English club scoring a try – a statistic they’d love to replicate on Sunday.
Ireland wing Jacob Stockdale’s three tries is the most as an individual for Les Kiss’ squad while 11 of the 14 have come from backs; secondrow Alan O’Connor, hooker Rory Best and flanker cum number eight Nick Timoney upheld the honour of the forwards. Ulster’s nemesis in defence are opposing backrow forwards.