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Hawkeye view: The inside on Sevens

Last week we took a look at how, by using statistics, you can shed light on a teams identity. We used a few very specific statistics to show how Fiji owns its identity and through the Gold Coast tournament have started to return to their best and it truly showed.

This week we're going to open things up and explore a little more.

I'm going to introduce to you a few more stats and start to categorize specific styles and then give examples of teams that identify themselves through these styles.

We'll also start to give names to these identities so as we move through the season I will reference these for a more in depth understanding of match ups and also use it as an opportunity to explore the styles that currently exist on the Sevens World Series Circuit.

Fiji were majestic in the their win and the key stats we looked at to Identify them were,

* Strike Rate (How many rucks per tries scored)

* Errors Made

* Total attempted tackles

* Tackle Ratio (how many tackles attempted to ho many were completed)

Their identity will be known as FLUID the words used to describe this style would be

* Effortless

* Adaptable

* Flowing

The next identity and style of play we'll look at is STRETCH and the words that we would use to describe this are

* Widen

* Extend

* Rigidity

There are two teams that best personify this style of play coming, out of Gold Coast, and effectively both of these teams have illustrated this style through their history on the World Series.

The newcomers to the Series, Japan, and the big climbers last year, who were missing their coach at the Gold Coast, Canada, epitomise this style of play.

How do we support that and what are the stats we use to show this.

The first would be there kick-off ratio.

The kick-off is the most common set piece on the Series and really can swing a game.

Teams last year approached this set piece in varying ways.

Ideally speaking you have a kicker that can put great height on the ball that has it hanging in the air for four or five seconds and then land it in a specific area that puts incredible pressure on the opposition waiting to receive the ball, allows his key teammates to get down and disrupt or better yet win back the possession.

One thing to remember, in Sevens when you score, you get to kick the ball off  as opposed to in 15-a-side, when you score you then receive on the following kick-off.

This provides added incentive to a team to keep pressure on and win back the ball straight after scoring.

Some teams though prefer to rely on their defensive prowess and look to kick the ball deep in to the 22 meter in either corner and come down hard and organized and apply pressure through there defence.

Another chain of thought  that supports this is the team that just scored, could get the ball deep enough down the field, that they have to build phases and go 70 to 80 meters up the field to score, where the defensive team waits for the error and then pounces and has an easy run in.

Both Canada and Japan have very technical and consistent kickers at their disposal and have athletes that can get down the field and put themselves in a position to be successful and turn over the ball.

This is supported by the stat that measures the retention of your kick-offs. Each time a team kicks off, how many times to do they retain that ball?

* Canada 37 percent (#1 on the Gold Coast)

* Japan 36 percent (#2 on the Gold Coast)

Those numbers may not seem significant, but when you are winning more than a third of the ball back on a very key opportunity for possession, it all adds up. Unfortunately just because you have possession, doesn't mean you win games and that's how their identity is born.

The next stat we look at which highlights, in emphatic fashion, these team's identities, is a stat that measures their ball movement.

How many times does the ball transfer from one player to another on the same team?

Japan topped this stat with a total of 234 passes over five games, which is 46.8 passes per game and Canada came in second with 228 passes over their six games with 38 passes per game. This is significant and this is where their STRETCH identity is truly defined.

Fiji, the eventual winners on the Gold Coast, threw 160 passes in their six games for an average of 26.7 passes per game, almost half that of Japan.

In having possession, there still needs to be a purpose, there needs to be a tactic and a strategy.

They have outlined a true focus on the kick-off and show that they can move the ball across the field,  but lack the ability to wear a team down through stretching the opposition defence into submission.

Canada last year had real purpose with this and showed regular poise with ball in hand to grind out territory and maintain possession which saw them finishing sixth overall and reaching a Final last year. At the start of the season the practice session now turn in to match and the pressure is hard to emulate and it is a factor.

Japan are technically very sound and that I believe is part of their heritage, is how they are coached. They thrive on technique and balance, which also offered up some major wins last year – one very memorable win over Samoa sticks out.

Both teams will find their feet and I believe will get stronger through the season and it will be interesting to analyse their stats and performances coming out of Wellington this year, the fourth stop on the World Sevens Series.

* 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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