Data visualization assesses 2015 Rugby World Cup

By Eshan Wickrema and Lachlan James

England has been awash with sporting spectacles this year. And, the entertainment is set to maintain momentum with the kick-off of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, as hosts England open proceedings against relative easy-beats Fiji. But, that lopsided affair won’t prove a good indicator of things to come.

To understand if England really has the ability to take out the Rugby World Cup 2015, let’s use Business Intelligence software and data visualization technology to reveal the tournament frontrunners.

Total Rugby World Cup titles over time (1987 – 2011)

Source >

Insights

  • New Zealand, South Africa and Australia share the most number of Rugby World Cup titles, with two apiece
    • New Zealand boasts the most intimidating record, having made the final four of every tournament (seven times)
  • However, it can be argued that South Africa are the side that has actually made the most of its opportunities
    • South Africa has made the semi-finals, or better, in all its world cup appearances (5/7)
    • South Africa therefore has the best conversion rate of all world cup winning nations, claiming the trophy on 40% of its appearances (2/5)
  • France is the ‘hard luck’ story of the Rugby World Cup, having made the equal second highest number of semi-final appearances (six, along with Australia), but have not gone onto win a single title.
    • In fact, France has been tournament runner-up on three of those six occasions

Historically, New Zealand and South Africa lead the pack

Of the eight sides realistically fighting it out to claim the2015 title (and let’s face it, even that’s being generous to the likes of Wales, Argentina and Scotland), New Zealand and South Africa have turned in the most successful campaigns.

But, do hosts, England, hold an advantage by playing on home turf?

Host country win rates at the Rugby World Cup (1987 – 2011)

Source >

Insights

  • The average winning percentage for host countries at the Rugby World Cup is 74.4%
    • South Africa (100% win rate), New Zealand (100% win rate) and Australia (83.3%) all better that average win rate for host nations at the Rugby World Cup – one could say they seem to ‘rise to the occasion’
      • South Africa and New Zealand both remain undefeated in world cup matches when hosting
    • France (69.2% win rate), Scotland (66.7% win rate), Ireland (66.7% win rate), England (62.5% win rate) and Wales (44.4% win rate) all perform worse than the average win rate of host nations
      • Wales is the only country to have a win rate below 50% when hosting the Rugby World Cup
      • 2015 hosts, England, have the second worst record out of all nations to have hosted the world cup, with a win rate of just 62.5%

Home crowd expectations too much for brittle England?

Can England perform in its own backyard? This will be the questions on many a rugby enthusiasts lips during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. With a history of falling short of national expectations in sports such as football and tennis (just to name two), it seems that the added weight of home crowd expectation does not bode well for the red and white, with England turning-in the second worst winning percentage of any host nation (62.5%).

But, it is true that solely assessing the performance of nations when hosting the world cup only takes into account a very small number of games. There are a great many factors that could impact the performance of a host nation – rather than simply the pressure of playing at home.

So what are the overall world cup win rates for all matches played by 2015’s combatants?

Rugby World Cup win rate by nation over time (1987 – 2011)

Source >

Insights

  • South Africa and New Zealand again standout as the two teams that consistently dominate on rugby’s biggest stage
    • South Africa has the best win rate at the Rugby World Cup, winning 86.2% of its 29 matches
    • The first seed of the 2015 tournament, New Zealand, comes in a close second, winning 86 percent of its 43 matches played at the world cup
  • World cup hosts, England, have fared better over the totality of their journey (compared to performances as tournament hosts alone), boasting the fourth best win rate (72.5%) over its 40 games played
  • Namibia are the only country to qualify for the Rugby World Cup not to have won a single world cup match (0/15)

A boost for the hosts amidst continued South African and New Zealand dominance

The news is substantially better for England fans when assessing the nation’s overall winning record in world cup matches. Despite having the second worst win-loss record as event hosts, England has the fourth best winning percentage of any nation across all its world cup games, claiming victory in 72.5% of its 40 matches.

Arguably the most successful nation at the Rugby World Cup, South Africa, and this year’s top seeded side, New Zealand, are again locked at the top of the table, winning 86.2% and 86 percent of their world cup games.

While historical perspectives do provide interest and context, such performances need to be compared against recent form. So how have the nations contesting the 2015 Rugby World Cup played in the 12 months preceding the tournament?

Assessing pre-tournament form: Win rate by nation over the past 12 months

Source >
Note: While assessing win rates by nation over the last 12 months of international matches offers an insight into the current form of each country at the 2015 world cup, it does not account for the fact that some nations play a greater number of games against lowly-ranked teams.

Insights

  • New Zealand has the best pre-tournament form, winning 12 of the 14 matches played in the last 12 months, with a win rate of 85.7%
    • By contrast, South Africa’s world cup pedigree seems in jeopardy of not coming to the fore, having won just 41.7% of its matches over the past 12 months
  • Ireland’s high tournament seeding (2nd) is due to a string of convincing performances over the last 12 months, winning 81.8% of 11 matches played
  • Tournament hosts, England, have the fourth best winning percentage for all matches played over the last year leading into the world cup (63.6%)

New Zealand command tournament favouritism as England firms for semi-final berth

New Zealand’s past 12 months justify its tag as tournament favourite, emerging triumphant in 85.7% of games over the last year (12/14). By comparison, other traditional world cup heavyweight, South Africa, has endured an unconvincing run of form heading into the 2015 Rugby World Cup, winning just 41.7% of its matches over the last 12 months. Similarly, world number two, and tournament third seed, Australia, has bettered its opponent in just 46.2% of its past 13 matches.

On the other hand, tournament hosts, England, have exhibited a good patch of form building towards the 2015 world cup, holding the fourth best winning percentage for all matches played over the last year (63.6%). Combined with England’s fourth best overall winning percentage for all matches played at world cup tournaments, it seems that England fans can expect a strong showing – if they can overcome the pressure of playing at home, that is.

Oh, and spare a thought for Italy, who has the ‘honour’ of the worst form coming into the tournament, winning only 20% (2) of its 10 matches played over the last 12 months.

So this pre-event form offers some insight. But, let’s dig a little deeper. As you know, a win isn’t just a win. How victory was secured – that is, the dominance of the performance – is also important.

Assessing pre-tournament form: Points differential by nation over the past 12 months

Source >

Insights

  • New Zealand has the best points differential across all its matches in the past 12 months, scoring a total of 437 points (the most by any qualifying team) while conceding just 240 (differential of 197)
  • Despite its historical prowess at the world cup, South Africa’s poor win-loss ratio over the past 12 months is also reflected in its points differential (just five), having scored 253 points while conceding 248
  • Surprise packets Japan boast the second best points differential (172)
    • However, this differential is misleading due to the frequency with which Japan has played other minnow nations over the past 12 months
  • England back-up their fourth best winning percentage – for both games played over the past 12 months and total world cup games played – with a sold sixth on the points differential table (79)
  • Italy has the worst points differential record of the past 12 months, scoring just 129 points while simultaneously conceding 301 (points differential of -172)
    • Italy has also scored the fewest points of any of the world cup qualifying teams over the last 12 months
  • Uruguay has conceded the most points over the last 12 months out of all qualified teams (383 points)

New Zealand to defend hard, attack harder

Not only has New Zealand enjoyed the best winning percentage of any team leading into the world cup, its victories have also been the most convincing. New Zealand has the best points differential across all its matches in the past 12 months, scoring a total of 437 points (the most by any qualifying team) while conceding just 240 (differential of 197).

Again, it also seems unlikely that South Africa will replicate its tournament form of the past, with its poor win-loss ratio over the past 12 months also reflected in its points differential (just five), having scored 253 points while conceding 248.

Somewhat encouragingly for the supports of the host nation, England’s fourth best winning percentage – for both games played over the past 12 months and total world cup games played – is also meet with a sold sixth on the points differential table (79). However, it seems that England will need everything to ‘fall its way’ if it stands any chance of upsetting the men in black.

Head-to-head record of top six nations at the Rugby World Cup (1987 – 2011)


All Black’s intimidating record over hosts
Unfortunately for England supporters, the current and historical performances of New Zealand have just been revealed as personally troubling for the England squad at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. New Zealand has defeated England in all world cup encounters to date. And, New Zealand’s recent form suggests that perfect, and intimidating, record won’t change any time soon.

While it’s probable that England will deliver some home crowd joy, should they meet the All Blacks in the knockout stages of the tournament, it’s difficult to imagine them prevailing.

We recommend

Data visualization uncovers world’s happiest countries >

Cricket: Data Visualization predicts 2015 Ashes outcome >

Data analysis predicts 2015 Wimbledon men’s champion >

Data Viz reveals why Game of Thrones season 5 most popular >

Data Visualization: Game of Thrones seasons 5 most divisive >

Data visualization shows most popular Game of Thrones Season >

Thanks for trying Yellowfin

Please complete the form below to request your copy of Yellowfin today.