How do we make sense of, and apply data in rugby?

Accenture provide comprehensive data of all the highs and lows during a game
Accenture provide comprehensive data of all the highs and lows during a game

Data has become increasingly prevalent in rugby, with new technology exploding into the game over the past few seasons.

Tech innovation has provided the ability to record more data presenting incredible opportunities for statistical analysis, game strategy and player monitoring, in particular with regard to training loads and recovery/growth optimisation programs.

The most common question I’ve encountered in the past couple of months in conversation with Head Coaches and Performance Directors at the leading rugby clubs is ‘How do we make sense of all the data?’ It appears that with the huge wave of technology there is now simply so much data it can be overwhelming at times to know where to start.

Technology is without doubt being used very successfully in places, but my feeling is that we are at the tip of the ice-berg, and it’s our application that needs to catch up.

Stop a moment and ask yourself. How many apps do you currently have on your smart phone? Now, how many of these do you actively use? – My phone is inundated with apps ranging from holiday planners to cookery books. These are fundamentally redundant as 99% of my phone usage is calls, text, email and social media.

I am guilty of being a technology magpie but I am afforded the luxury as there is no tangible loss on my phone’s performance. 

In sport, and rugby specifically we do not have this luxury. Technology and innovation need to deliver results. In order to be successful we need to identify clear hypotheses and work backwards from the rugby specific issue. What are our objectives? What are we trying to achieve? How will this help us get there?

I appreciate we are in a game of inches and critical 1%s, but equally we need to confident and direct in what is a critical 1% and what is superfluous information.

This translates directly into game-play and performance. It is no coincidence the All Blacks are back-to-back World Champions.

How do we use data to articulate impact on leadership and influence on other team members?

Does data reduce in-play decision making?