With fast-paced games and running rugby presiding over kick-dominated tactics, women’s rugby continues to win over new fans.
Over the last three weekends, WXV 1 has proved to be a perfect showcase for the attractiveness of the sport with a series of high-octane, competitive matches where the action never seemed to stop.
Statistical analysis of the event shows that in four of the nine matches (44 per cent) the ball-in-play time was over 40 minutes, which is off the scale compared to some other tournaments.
At Men’s Rugby World Cup 2023, for example, only three matches out of the 48 played – all featuring beaten finalists New Zealand – reached that lofty benchmark.
Les Bleues' touch paper
In WXV 1, it was France who contributed most to the high tempo theme, their downfall was that they failed to make the most of the opportunities that came their way.
Each of France’s three games had ball-in-play time of 40 minutes plus, with Les Bleues’ 29-20 round-two defeat to Australia ranked number one (43 minutes and 54 seconds) in terms of ball-in-play time.
England’s 45-12 win over Canada, also in round two, came next with 40 minutes and 49 seconds, followed by France’s stunning 18-17 victory over the Black Ferns in round one (40 minutes and 26 seconds).
The fourth game in which the ball was alive for over half of the match was France’s 29-20 loss to Canada on the final weekend of the tournament (40 minutes and eight seconds).
The median average ball-in-play for WXV 1 was the 38 minutes 52 seconds recorded for England’s title-winning win over New Zealand, an encounter between the top-performing attacking teams.
Red Roses bloom
England, along with Wales, were the most clinical team in terms of coming away from the ‘red-zone’ with points, averaging three points for every visit into the opposition 22.
All the teams except France (1.7) scored a very respectable average of 2.5 points or more.
The Red Roses were also the top try-scorers in the tournament with 18, two more than New Zealand, but the Black Ferns were without peers when it came to carries (501), metres gained (1,896), clean breaks (39), defenders beaten 110 and offloads (49), heavily outscoring their rivals in most of the categories.
High ball-in-play times were not so commonplace in the two lower levels of WXV but, even so, three out of 18 is still a much higher ratio than at RWC 2023.
Scotland’s 38-7 win over Japan in WXV 2 took top honours across all three levels with 44 minutes and 14 seconds of action crammed into a game that was right in the balance until the soon-to-be crowned champions went through the gears in the second half.
Not one match in the inaugural edition of WXV had ball in play time below half an hour, with Fiji’s 118-0 win over Kazakhstan ranked the lowest with 30 minutes and 47 seconds, and the only time that game seemed to stop was for the 18 conversion attempts!