Lies, damn lies and statistics: The Six Nations so far, in numbers
Who have been the standout performers in the opening two rounds of fixtures?
France’s Louis Picamoles has made a staggering 201-metres in his side’s opening two Six Nations fixtures - the highest in the tournament. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA
And breathe. After a blistering opening two rounds the Six Nations goes to bed for the weekend, before resuming on February 25th.
The table has a fairly predictable look to it after the opening fixtures - with England already looking like back-to-back champions elect after narrow wins over France and Wales.
Ireland’s opening defeat to Scotland has left them with a mountain to climb if they want to reclaim the championship - while Wales’s goose already looks cooked after Elliott Daly’s late try consigned them to defeat at the Millennium Stadium.
But despite Eddie Jones’s side looking set to retain their title, it has been a brilliant tournament so far, and it is clear the margin between the teams - Italy aside - is the narrowest it has been for a long time.
There have been a number of standout performances and moments of brilliance already - but statistically who have been the best players on show thus far? Find out below.
It stands to reason that the players who have made the most metres should be fullbacks, and it is no surprise four wear number 15. For Ireland Rob Kearney has made 155 - just pipped by England’s Mike Brown with 156. Stuart Hogg - the tournament’s standout back so far - is ahead of those two with 188 and has three tries for his troubles, while Italy’s Edoardo Padovani has made 124 metres.
However Wales and France buck the trend. Leigh Halfpenny’s fullback role is different to the others and is based around his miserly defence and kicking game - meaning it is Jonathan Davies who leads the way for Rob Howley’s side.
But at the top of the chart is France’s totemic Louis Picamoles, who has been a monster in both of his side’s opening fixtures. Picamoles bullied England at Twickenham, earning the man of the match award, and he has gained a staggering 201 metres from number eight.
Louis Picamoles also leads the way in terms of defenders beaten - having left 13 would-be tacklers in his wake. He made one particularly memorable carry down the left at Twickenham, dancing and muscling his way past three white shirts and leaving Dylan Hartley sprawled on the floor in the process.
For Ireland CJ Stander has been particularly effective, beating 12 defenders, and has a hat-trick against Italy to show for his efforts - the first by a forward in a Six Nations history. England’s Mike Brown is level with him, while Jonathan Davies again comes out on top for Wales but with a measly six - perhaps suggesting ‘Warren-Ball’ hasn’t departed along with Gatland.
One thing that has been particularly noticeable in the opening two rounds is the sheer brutality and physicality of this year’s tournament - and that is highlighted by the tackling statistics.
Scotland have been involved in two wars - coming out on top against Ireland but losing in Paris - and secondrow Jonny Gray has made a staggering 42 tackles. His 28 against Joe Schmidt’s side set a new Scottish record.
He has been matched by Italy’s Maxime Mbanda, a player who hasn’t garnered many headlines but who has put in two very honest shifts. That said, there will always been more tackling for the Italians to do.
The majority of Joe Launchbury’s 38 tackles came in a man of the match performance against Wales, while Justin Tipuric’s 26 don’t tell the full story of his tireless contributions. Jamie Heaslip is Ireland’s top tackler with 24.
A faultless kicking display in the nine-try drubbing of Italy sees Paddy Jackson top the points table after two games with 30 points - although his two accomplished performances have offered Ireland more than just place-kicking accuracy.
Leigh Halfpenny has kicked 29 points and Camille Lopez 28 - while Stuart Hogg’s three tries make him the leading Scot.
While Ireland were clinical and incisive against Italy their attacking play against Scotland - particularly in the opening half - was one-dimensional and a bit dull. Ireland’s plan seemed to revolve around punching holes in the Scottish defence rather than crafting them, and this is highlighted by the carry stats.
CJ Stander has made 46 so far - with Nathan Hughes the closest to him on 37. While giving Stander plenty of the ball proved fruitful in Rome, he was often double or triple-teamed in Murrayfield and Ireland should have something else up their sleeves if it happens again against France, Wales or England.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of Ireland’s campaign thus far has been the efficiency of the scrum, with Tadhg Furlong enjoying two destructive games alongside Jack McGrath and then Cian Healy.
And leading the way for penalties conceded are Scotland prop Zander Ferguson and Italian prop Andrea Lovotti. Granted, Scotland got a hammering in the scrum against France and Italy didn’t fare much better against Wales - but it goes someway to highlighting the set-piece pressure applied by the Irish pack.
It doesn’t take statistics to work out Louis Picamoles has been the tournament’s stand-out number eight but again he leads the way for offloads, with seven. Under Guy Noves France have shown glimpses of a return to their free-flowing Gallic style of old and this is typified by the handling skills of their best ball carrier.
Jamie Heaslip has made four - all against Italy - while Finn Russell is one behind Picamoles on six. Russell’s willingness to keep the ball alive is one of his strengths and weaknesses, as shown by two exciting but erratic performances.
Exciting but erratic is the perfect way to describe France in the opening two rounds, and it is clear under Guy Noves they are edging back towards their mercurial best. Against England they ultimately ran out of gas, while they prevailed in an arm-wrestle with Scotland thanks to the boot of Camille Lopez.
However a common thread in both games was Les Bleus’ commitment to keeping the ball alive - something which has been to their detriment at times but has also led to some inspired passages of play.
Their 29 team offloads is comfortably the tournament’s highest - with Ireland second with 21. Wales meanwhile have managed only eight.
Team penalties conceded
One facet of Ireland’s play under Joe Schmidt which they pride themselves on is their discipline and the limited penalties they give away. And despite their opening defeat to Scotland they are currently bottom of the penalty count having conceded 13, with England on 14 and Wales on 15. The worst offenders are the French on 25.