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Hawkeye view: The inside on Sevens

Last week we started looking in to the value of statistics and how they play a role in Sevens, with Day One performance evaluation that sets up a team for success or failure going in to Day Two, but also how that also starts to give a team and identity.

What do I mean when I say a team identity?

Every team in the world be it 15-a-side or Sevens, has an identity and for the most part that doesn't shift too dramatically.

However, influential players in key positions do allow for the manipulation of that identity, while the coaching staff – both tactically and strength and conditioning wise – allow a team to exploit certain key advantages they have over the rest of the world.

Over the next few weeks we will start to evaluate teams' identities and scrutinize the value of that identity, but also see how specific players can influence that and what coaches put in place to keep those core to a teams preparation.

Tearing through the stats sheets from the tournament at the Gold Coast, its hard not to recognize to very distinct pieces about the two eventual finalists.

Fiji have always had the identity of being incredibly free flowing and fluid. This style of play was enhanced by the type of athletes that litter their team. They are tall and rangy with incredible agility matched with smaller, savvy and sleek creators, but their ability to create space and then run in to space with precision timing and explosiveness is matched by no other team.

This too allows for a game that is constantly moving, as the temptation to go to ground and set a ruck is not in their DNA.

This is supported by the stat that measures a team's strike rate of how many rucks a team has when in possession before scoring a try.

Fiji was No.1 on that list, with them setting 0.5 rucks per try scored over the weekend. The highest number was America Samoa with eight rucks per try. That is a staggering statistic for those hardcore 15-a-side fans out there. The piece that a lot of people miss is that it requires incredible vision, constant movement and an unwavering endurance, matched with a prolific skill level.

On the downside of this pattern of play, the margin of error is massive and the opportunity for individuals to all be on the same page at the same time is virtually impossible. That is why the Fijian team had the second highest errors made over the weekend – with 27 in all, or 4.7 per game. The lowest was NZ with 13, at 2.2 per game.

This margin of error requires a team to be able to scramble on defence and smoothly and efficiently transition from attack to defence without missing a beat. There talisman and captain Kolinisau exemplified this ability and was seen making tackle after tackle. In the Final he cut off multiple opportunities, scoring through his ability to transition and execute in defence.

There is a stat that supports this and it measures the total number of attempted tackles over the weekend by a team.

The Fijians again were No.1 in this stat – attempting a total of 133 tackles in their six games, for 22.2 tackles a game. With an actual Sevens game, on average, only having about seven to eight minutes of ball-in-play time, this is an unreal stat.

The next closest was England with 113 – 20 attempts behind Fiji and almost a whole game, even though they both played six.

We measure many stats and some are crucial, other are purely there for data and research purposes.

Most of them can be skewed any which way, depending on what you want them to tell you – whether you are on the coaching staff or a player.

The tackle attempts show you that the Fijians were chaotically getting to the ball and stopping the attack on defence.

They did not, however, have the best overall tackle ratio. That stat measures each time a team attempts a tackle, whether they were successful or not. They came in third with 83 percent. However, because they attempted so many, for every man on the ground who missed, there was inevitably another with arms wrapped around the opponent dragging him to ground.

The stats will always paint a picture and this picture helps us identify a team with what we need to work on, but also where our strengths lie and that forms the foundation for our team pattern. There is also the strategy and player selection we use as a team and coaching staff.

It helps define our preparation, but also our off-season periods and how we build out our basework, leading in to a season, along with the blocks between tournaments where teams finetune each and every piece and work towards progression.

* Matthew Hawkins, who will write this weekly Sevens column exclusively for rugby365, is a former United States eagles Sevens player, captain and coach. He appeared on the World Series as a player 37 times (from 2007 to 2013 and also appeared in two Sevens World Cup tournaments – 2009 (Dubai) and 2013 (Russia).

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