Rugby could use Duckworth-Lewis-Stern system to finish season

With the rugby season up in the air it could do with looking at cricket’s Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method in order to decide future fixtures – if they can’t be played due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In order to finalize the tables, and ensure fair and proper qualification for the subsequent European competitions a year later, this method might have benefits if the game cannot resume.

This would apply best to a season that has run for more than two-thirds of its season naturally. Grassroots could also utilize the system to decide who gets promoted or relegated from national leagues.

Cup competition formats wouldn’t be able to work off this method and would have to be scrapped, unfortunately. The Champions Cup/Challenge Cup might have to be a ‘no result’ in 2020.

Could rugby incorporate the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method

For those who watch cricket regularly, you will be familiar with the system. In the most simple of terms, the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) system converts the number of overs left to bowl and the number of wickets lost by the batting side, into a ‘resources remaining’ figure.

  • As overs are completed or wickets fall – the ‘resources remaining’ figure falls.
  • Taking wickets remaining into consideration is much fairer than the old method, as it’s obviously much easier to chase 100 runs with ten wickets left than just two or three.

Simply put, DLS attempts to retain the ‘status quo’ of a match, offering a hyperthetical outcome.

While a side’s required run-rate may increase following a delay, as overs are lost, a batting side’s run-rate would naturally rise anyway, which DLS attempts to recreate.

The old ‘Duckworth-Lewis’ method (now updated to be more effective) simply looked at run rate per over, to complete matches that couldn’t go the full distance, in order to help determine a winner. This could be the more useful for rugby, but the updated system could help factor in home games as ‘resources’.

In rugby parlance, over the course of time, the math attempts to match the games plausible result.

Could it work in Rugby? we do the Math

Ok, so the math is easy enough to work out. You calculate the average number of points per game accumulated by each team thus far in the 2019/20 season.

This would give you a basic table, and of course no teams would move position provided they all sit on equal number of games played. Of course, this may not be entirely fair as some teams will have ‘easier’ runs, with more home games remaining.

You could therefore calculate a ‘resources remaining’ based on home to away game ratio. And award or deduct a point based on that team’s form at home, or on the road.

This should give a fair, and accurate representation for the season to work from.

Could a rugby season benefit from Duckworth-Lewis-Stern

Well, you’ll have an accurate, and complete season for teams worldwide to lift silverware from. In the French Top14, Guinness Pro14 and Gallagher Premiership you would have the correct placings for next year’s Heineken Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup.

RFU Championship Funding Cuts - A Balanced View
Greene King IPA Championship match between Yorkshire Carnegie and Newcastle Falcons at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds on Sunday 19th January 2020. (Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

At community level the main loss for sides efforts to date, are the lack of clarity in the vital promotion or relegation contest. Some sides are well clear, battling for promotion when the season was abruptly postponed. Teams not performing are definitely down, whilst some leagues are such a tight contest, the calculations would cause some arguments that cross the field of play.

Averaging out points would ensure the grassroots clubs don’t miss out on what could be a huge boost for them, not just financially. It would give the season a full stop. Yes, there’d be multiple sets of fans that would be disappointed to go down but, working off that club’s points per game would mean it’s a fair way to judge overall.

Could a rugby season benefit from the incorporation of the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern formula? Yes, for the majority. And in these times, giving rugby stakeholders something tangible could be a godsend.


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