Rugby Stats: Alldritt and Ruddock ready to carry the heavy loads once more
Backrow duo have played a massive part in getting their sides to the semi-final
Grégory Alldritt was playing French third divsion rugby in 2017 before signing for La Rochelle in 2018. Photograph: Manuel Blondeau/Inpho
Different players by inclination, nevertheless Grégory Alldritt and Rhys Ruddock share a common characteristic that will be very much in evidence in Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre (3.0) in the colours of La Rochelle and Leinster respectively.
They are primary carriers, Alldritt (38) averaging 10.8 per match while Ruddock (37) is a team leader in every respect for Leinster. The France international was arguably the outstanding number eight in the recent Six Nations Championship and has made quite the impression since winning the first of 23 caps in 2019.
It is a remarkable rise to prominence for the 24-year-old, who in 2017 was playing for his local club team, RC Auch in a Federale 1 final, French rugby’s third division. Alldritt could potentially have been wearing a Leinster or Ireland jersey in a different set of circumstances as his paternal grandfather and great grandfather were both born in Dublin.
The cosmopolitan nature of his background is reflected in the fact that he also boasts Danish ancestry, his grandmother, while his mother’s side of the family comes from Italian and French stock. His father, Terence, was born in Kenya but the family moved to Stirling in Scotland when he was 10; one of Gregory’s two brothers, Scott, lives and works in Edinburgh and plays for the Stewart’s Melville club.
The Alldritt boys grew up in Auch in southwest France, all playing for the local club initially and it was only in the summer of 2018 that Grégory signed his first professional contract with La Rochelle, underlining the significant strides he’s made since then.
He is the fulcrum in a La Rochelle backrow that contains former All Black Victor Vito and ex-France international Kevin Gourdon. Alldritt’s athleticism makes him a valued contributor across a variety of roles from lineout to his ball carrying close-in and in the wider channels. His intelligent lines of running and support are reflected not only in excellent try-scoring statistics but in beating defenders, eight in three matches.
In his post-match analysis following last weekend’s defeat to Munster in the Rainbow Cup, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen referenced the fact that his team had lost the primary collisions in the breakdown/carry/tackle metrics and that they were second best to their opponents physically that night.
It was a fair assessment and shines a light on several areas, one of which is the importance of delineated roles within the team dynamic. Caelan Doris’s late withdrawal meant reshuffling the back five in the pack and the reassignment of remits may have got a little lost in translation.
It’s okay to forage and roam after attending to the basic duties but Leinster, collectively, fell down in the latter respect and as a result scrumhalf Hugh O’Sullivan had more “foreign” fingerprints on him than a CSI episode. Contrast that to the application of players like Josh van der Flier and Ruddock in the victory over the Exeter Chiefs, when there was a much better balance to the backrow and in sharing out the chores.
Ruddock’s effectiveness in carrying into heavy contact and securing go-forward ball for his team and the physical aggression in defence, where he is joint second behind Van der Flier (48) with 33 tackles in the tournament to date are central to Leinster’s ability to fire. Shedding weight to make himself more mobile hasn’t compromised the power that he brings to contact.
Alongside fullback Hugo Keenan (eight) he’s at the top of the defenders beaten metric. It might surprise one or two to note that he’s won more lineouts (eight) than any of his team-mates while also expanding responsibility in terms of kick-off reception. Ruddock features prominently in the turnovers category across the team’s three matches.
One statistic that stands out is the number of cumulative missed tackles (65) across the three games from a Leinster perspective but that is skewed heavily on a whopping 31 against the Chiefs, a significant number in the opening 10 minutes when they coughed up two tries. It’s considerably more than they offered up against Montpellier (19) and the Northampton Saints (15) but is an area that will require a substantial improvement on Sunday.
As the graphic illustrates La Rochelle offload appreciably in excess of their opponents and have also won seven more turnovers than the Irish province, red flags that Leinster will have noted in preparing for Sunday’s game. The French side (33) have been averaging two penalties a game more, a trend that Leinster will hope to perpetuate at the weekend if they are to edge one step closer to a fifth Champions Cup title.