The professionalism and viewership of women’s sports are increasing in tandem, and according to Stats Perform this is perfectly exemplified in the latest Women’s Six Nations.
Following England’s dominant display in the tournament, Insider Sport reached out to Nick Bentley, Head of UK and Central Data Insights at Stats Perform, who provided a breakdown of key data insights.
Insider Sport – What were some of the key takeaways or trends from the women’s Six Nations from a data collection perspective? Was there anything unexpected or surprising?
NB – The quality of rugby in the women’s game is on a steep upwards curve, with the pace, power and skill on show always a delight for fans. As the sport moves into a more professional era the advancements will only accelerate and this can be clearly seen in the data.
With full data coverage of the tournament we can do deep dives into the team and player performances and do expert analysis to measure trends and talking points.
Ahead of the World Cup later this year all the teams will know what they are coming up against and how they can build tactical game plans based on their own skill sets and player options as well as the specific opponents they will be facing.
IS – Were there any players or teams in particular who were identified by Opta Data as really standing out from the rest?
NB – Champions England and runners-up France are the standout teams in women’s rugby at the moment. Both beat New Zealand twice back in late 2021 and they brought that form into the 2022 Women’s Six Nations. The two teams dominated the statistical rankings across the championship but it was England who had the edge.
The Red Roses swept aside all of their opponents, having the best tackle success rate, the quickest ruck speed, best lineout success rate and most of the best attacking stats. They were simply unbeatable and will head to the World Cup later this year as heavy favourites.
England’s dominance was in large part down to the depth of talent and quality they had across the entire squad, even when key players got injured or were rested, they were replaced with excellence.
Laure Sansus was named the official TikTok Player of the Championship and few could argue with the French scrum-half picking up the award, in fact she topped the Opta Index ratings too, in large part to the 12 try involvements she had (6 tries, 6 assists). All six of the teams had players feature in the Opta Team of the Championship though.
IS – Did the tournament pose any challenges in comparison to the usual weekly club football/rugby schedule?
NB – The Women’s Six Nations now has its own unique window in the rugby calendar, meaning it isn’t directly competing with the men’s edition and allowing it to flourish even more.
Subsequently there were record attendances set in ground and excellent TV viewing figures. The women’s edition is collected at exactly the same level of granularity as the men’s and we can provide the exact same service from a data perspective.
Meaning broadcast graphics, match analysis, data feeds and all the other parts of the process are of the highest standard.
IS – Stats Perform recently announced its Team of the Tournament – can the sports world expect to see big things from these players back at the club level?
NB – The Opta Index is a great way to be able to objectively rate player performance. Using all of our granular data we can give players points for positive actions such as tries, tackles, breaks etc. and remove them for negative actions like missed tackles, penalties conceded and handling errors.
The scoring system is extremely complex and calibrates points for different playing positions but the output is very simple. In collaboration with the Six Nations we delivered the Team of the Championship, which they then published digitally online and on their social channels.
There were players from all six nations represented and we provided insights with each selection to back up why they had made the cut and to add context. There were some familiar big names but one of the good things about the Index algorithms is that they don’t give any credit for reputations, meaning we can unearth new talent and the people sometimes doing the hidden work.
Laure Sansus took the headlines but a few other players to look out for include Ireland’s Neve Jones and Eve Higgins, Italian duo of Maria Magatti and Beatrice Rigoni and in the #10 shirt Scotland’s Helen Nelson.