Statistics – you either love them or you hate them.
There are those who will analyse the stats down to the last detail and make assumptions based on them, while there are others who will rely on their hearts and simply go with their gut – everyone has their preference.
But stats don’t lie.
PRO 12: Breaking Down The Stats
At the weekend we saw a pair of strange results in the Guinness PRO12 – defending champions Glasgow lost at home for the first time in 16 games to the Scarlets and Leinster were defeated by Edinburgh.
True, they’re not impossible results by any stretch of the imagination, but you would have definitely expected Glasgow to win at Scotstoun and your money probably would have been on Leinster too.
And yet these results have something in common, and it’s a statistic: they are the two sides in the PRO12 who have lost the most players to the Rugby World Cup.
Leo Cullen is unlucky enough to have lost 17 players in his debut season as Leinster head coach, while Gregor Townsend is counting the cost of having such a successful team – Glasgow will have 20 representatives at the World Cup.
When you take that into consideration, it’s not such a surprise that both sides ended up on the wrong end of their respective scorelines, and it works the other way around too.
Four of the six teams with the lowest player losses – Connacht, Munster, Scarlets and Ulster – all picked up victories on the opening weekend, while the other two – Dragons and Treviso – picked up losing bonus points against Connacht and Munster respectively.
Of the remaining teams, Cardiff and Edinburgh both picked up wins over teams who have lost more players than them (Zebre and Leinster), meaning that in every match the team that lost less players emerged victorious.
Whatever you think about stats, they don’t lie, and they paint a worrying picture for both Glasgow and Leinster.
For Glasgow defending their PRO12 crown, their lacklustre first half performance against Scarlets will not fill their fans with too much confidence, and the fact they don’t have any names of note to return from injury either will also be concerning.
Leinster have a few more reasons to be confident with the possibility of Cian Healy featuring over the next few weeks and Rhys Ruddock returning from injury, but the inexperience of their coaching staff is worrying.
Meanwhile the likes of Munster, Scarlets and Ulster will be delighted at how their World Cup call-ups have unaffected them as they can pool all their resources towards getting off to a quick start.
For both Munster and Ulster a fast start will solidify their positions as top four clubs, as per where they finished last season, while Scarlets will be eager to build on a fantastic win over Glasgow and push for a top four spot themselves.
However the next few rounds of PRO12 action pan out, it’s safe to say that Round 1 won’t be the only round that produces some shock results, and the big games keep coming with Scarlets vs. Ulster and Ospreys vs. Munster this weekend alone.
And remember: the stats don’t lie.