Credit to Opta Statistics (@optajonny) for the collated statistics from the Aviva Premiership 2015/16
The early front runners in the Aviva Premiership after the first five games are once again Saracens with Exeter Chiefs, Leicester Tigers and Harlequins sitting pretty in the playoff spots. The Rugby World Cup has meant that a delayed start to the season has seen some top international representatives have limited game time. It is, however, an apt moment to pause and reflect on the season so far from a purely statistical assessment with Opta Statistics releasing the top 25 performers in the league. Here LWOS takes a look at the Aviva Premiership top performers in each category and assess those eligible for England Selection.
Aviva Premiership Top Performers- A Statistical Analysis
After performances at the World Cup from nations experimenting with playing two open side flankers the cry from around England has been where exactly are our jackal in the tackles. Four of the top five in the Aviva Premiership are already eligible for England or will be by next summer. The glaring lack of turnovers at the World Cup led many to believe that England need to look overseas for the answer but the statistics show Matt Kvesic leading the way with eight turnovers. Maro Itoje and Dave Ward follow with six which is particularly impressive considering Itoje predominately plays in the second row and Ward has only just converted to the back row from hooker. Nathan Hughes and TJ Ioane round out the top five also with six turnovers each. The skillset of these men must be a factor in their inclusion in the upcoming England squad.
Clean line breaks and high try scoring games are not something commonly associated with English rugby in the dark, wet northern hemisphere winter but the quality of rugby on offer so far apart from a couple of dour games this past weekend has been exceptional. Wasps, Exeter and with the influence of Aaron Mauger, Leicester Tigers have shown a new style of play for themselves. The success of Wasps early season play it is no surprise to see Elliot Daly and Christian Wade joint 2nd with seven breaks, while Tom Arscott and Semesa Rokoduguni top the charts with eight apiece. Once more the English influence in the top performers is hard to be ignored.
Again the attritional nature of English club rugby appears to have diminished ever so slightly with the increase in metres made by attacking players. The backs dominate the landscape of the top five here with Sale’s Mike Haley (394m) topping the list followed by Jonny May (376m), Chris Pennel (351m), Telusa Veainu (310m) and Ben Foden (309m). The running success of the backs in the Aviva Premiership have been helped of course by all the clubs willingness to play a far greater expansive game. With bonus points on offer sides are looking more and more for tries rather than option of a quick three points.
Worcester Warriors dominate the top of the tackles made chart largely down to the amount of defence they have had to do. The newcomers to the Aviva Premiership have done themselves no shame at all with a number of impressive performances not least with their opening win against Northampton. Phil Dowson (64) leads the way in terms of tackles made with Matt Symons (60) of London Irish next, Dave Ewers (59) of Exeter Chiefs rounding out the top three. The following four positons in the chart are filled by Worcester players highlighting their defensive resilience.
Exeter Chiefs impressive continuation of form is reflected in the fact that their winger Jack Nowell tops the chart for defenders beaten with 21, three clear of his nearest rival. Rokoduguni cements his successful start to the season with second place (18) in this chart alongside his top rank in line breaks making the case for his England return even stronger. Fellow England hopefuls fill out the defenders beaten top performers with Henry Slade and Marland Yarde (17) and Ben Foden (16). Each of these players should be considered by Eddie Jones.
The lineout was an area of some concern during the World Cup for England and therefore it is the key men in the Aviva Premiership who should be looking to change its fortunes. Damien Welch of the Exeter Chiefs tops the list with 31 wins, Jamie Gibson (Northampton) next with 28, and George Kruis rounds out the top three with 21 wins. Although these statistics will be down to the calls made at clubs it is noteworthy to see who the top jumpers in the league are.
With competition for places high in the England squad it is interesting to note the statistics behind the opinions. Statistics do not show a players leadership qualities, personality or team dynamic but it is necessary to compare both opinion and fact in order to highlight who most is worthy to wear the England shirt. Only five games into the season and without taking into account European performances these charts will no doubt change but as Eddie Jones takes up his role this week at Twickenham it will have given him lots to consider.