Tracking tries and predicting winners

Social Media Specialist, Big Data, SWG UKI, IBM

If you live in the UK, no doubt you have been watching, or at least hearing about, the rugby internationals that are now taking place.

Earlier this week, Chris Nott wrote about the IBM TryTracker technology and how the RFU (Rugby Football Union) here in England is using the technology to suggest how the teams can improve their chances of winning and enhancing the experience for fans: expert or novice. The past two weekends have seen England in action, but ended with the home team beaten by both South Africa and New Zealand. In each case, the score difference was only three points. But did the TryTracker provide any insight into these losses?

Saturday, November 8: New Zealand

Saturday, November 8 was the first of four games for England during which the All Blacks (New Zealand) demonstrated to viewers why they are the best team in the world. The keys to the game confirmed how big this game would be for England—their best chance of success would include winning 91.5 percent of their line-outs, each forward to gain an average of 3.2 metres with the ball in hand and for the side to collectively beat the 18 All Blacks defenders. But how did they do in comparison?

The TryTracker momentum graphs showed hope for England in the early stages of the game, and rightly so, as they scored their first try in just three minutes. However, some errors at crucial points in the game cost them points. The momentum surged towards New Zealand as they changed strategy to suit both the rain and the fact they had a player in the sin bin (when players have to sit out the game for 10 mins). New Zealand took the lead on England and, in the end, won the game.

According to the TryTracker, England achieved just one of the keys to the game by gaining 100 percent record in their line-outs. They narrowly missed their other target by just one, beating only 17 of the defenders, and fell short of 3.2 metre target for the forwards by only averaging a carry of 1.6 metres. Of course, all of this is understood knowing the circumstances: it was wet second half and they were playing the best team in the world. According to the TryTracker analysis England had played well, but sadly just not well enough to beat the All Blacks. 

Saturday, November 15: South Africa

A week later and we’re back at Twickenham; the largest dedicated Rugby Union venue in the world, this time to play South Africa—a team we’ve not beaten in eight years. Having lost to the New Zealand All Blacks the previous week, we needed this win to give us confidence for the future games in the QBE Series. Key requirements for the England squad this week included a target of 92 percent success in their line-outs, having at least eight shots at goal and finally averaging more than 5.2 metres with the ball in hand. According to Will Greenwood, former England player and 2003 World Cup Winner, these keys are attainable if the team can “trust their systems and keep their discipline.” 

During the first half, England looked like they were playing well, however, again, crucial errors cost the team points. When the South Africa Springboks had a man sin binned, England dominated the game and brought the score up to 20 all. Interesting, despite winning 31 to 28, South Africa failed to meet any of their keys to the game as identified by the IBM TryTracker. England again hit only one of their TryTracker targets, winning 94.4 percent of their line-outs and the team was below target in both, their shots at the post and the metres carried.

Itt was the small errors that cost England the game. The team has another two games to play; let’s see how their momentum looks and how mentally prepared they are to return to the pitch against Samoa and the Wallabies over the next two weeks.

The IBM TryTracker demonstrates a fantastic way to engage with the audience and create conversations, whether or not they are rugby experts or novices. Additionally the analysis can help organizations like the RFU to make better decisions when picking teams, and help the team understand what they need to achieve in order to win.


This technology can be applied in businesses to make similar predictions and help decision makers in forward thinking, based on the insight gained from the analysis. Test out the TryTracker today and visit the Telegraph Hub to learn more.