New Zealand confirmed their tournament credentials with a 96-17 victory over Italy in Lyon on Friday, and as a result are unsurprisingly setting the standard for attacking stats at Rugby World Cup 2023.
The All Blacks are averaging 16.3 line-breaks per game, a gainline success of 67 per cent, and 3.82 points when it comes to red-zone efficiency - all tournament-leading numbers.
"I am very proud,” captain Ardie Savea said post-match. “We really prepped ourselves for Italy so to go out and play freely like we did and put points on board, I am just stoked for the lads."
Ian Foster’s team have also only lost one lineout in the pool phase so far, with their 97 per cent success rate proving that they are getting the basics right as well as playing an attractive brand of rugby.
Italy are still in with a chance to make the quarter-finals if they beat France in their final pool match at OL Stadium on 6 October. There is plenty to be positive about within the Italian camp; they’re still playing to a high tempo with ball in hand - they have the fastest ruck speed at 3.13s - and Tommaso Allan is yet to miss a kick at goal in 15 attempts.
“It is never easy getting so many points against you, but the beauty of this tournament is you get another chance next week,” Allan said. “It is important we scrap this, don’t think about it too much and just focus on France.”
With a ruck speed of 3.36s, Argentina are ranked second in that category behind Italy, and they used that speed to good effect in their 59-5 victory over Chile in Nantes on Saturday.
Michael Cheika’s side average the fourth-most carries per game (127.3) and the third-most defenders beaten (34.7), however they also lack ruthlessness in attack; conceding an average of 6.3 penalties per game while in possession and ranked 13th in the tournament for red-zone efficiency with 2.18 (points per visit).
It’s something they will have to fix if they are to come out on top in their winner-takes-all match against Japan on 8 October at Stade de la Beaujoire.
Argentina must find accuracy to match intensity
"I think the intensity was good, we had some moments where we dropped off a bit,” Cheika said.
"Looking forward to Japan, they will be trying to qualify for the quarter-finals but so will we. We are hungry, we want to win.”
Fiji are on the brink of the quarter-finals themselves after they came from behind to beat Georgia 17-12 in Bordeaux on Saturday. The Flying Fijians currently average the most dominant collisions per game with 44.3, but they have also come into the tournament with a rock-solid scrum - the only one at Rugby World Cup 2023 with a 100 per cent success rate.
Hooker Sam Matavesi said after the win against Georgia: “People think of Fiji and they think of fast-flowing and scoring incredible tries from our own try-line but, as we've seen at this World Cup, to win these games, it's set-piece first.”
Also key to Fiji’s success is the fact they average the most turnovers per game (8.3), and are all the way down in 16th for possession kicked away (45 per cent) which shows that they are adept at winning the ball from their opponents - and keeping hold of it.
Scotland 'need to stay composed in attack' against Ireland
Meanwhile, Scotland are top for offloads (44) as well as defenders beaten (143) following their 84-0 victory over Romania in Lille. In addition to playing running rugby, the Scots have also been disciplined in defence - their 89 per cent tackle success rate putting them joint top of the tournament alongside Georgia.
"We need to stay composed in attack,” scrum-half George Horne said of their must-win final pool match against Ireland on 7 October. “We forced a few offloads tonight. We know we are not going to make as many line-breaks against Ireland so we’ve got to be clinical with every chance we get.”
Another team in Scotland’s pool hoping to get through to the knockouts is South Africa, who beat Tonga 49-18 in Marseille on Sunday. They will now have to wait for that game between Scotland and Ireland in Paris to find out if they’ve done enough for a quarter-final berth.
The Springboks will need to tighten up on some of their metrics if they do make it to the knockouts; they have totalled the most time spent in the opposition 22 with 19 minutes 31 seconds, but are third worst for positive outcomes from their possession at 60 per cent.
Their scrum is also, somewhat surprisingly, not functioning at its best. The defending champions rank 15th in the tournament for scrum success with 81 per cent, losing one scrum per game on average.
However, they are fourth best for discipline overall when it comes to penalties conceded (9.3 per game) and are fourth for turnovers at the breakdown (4.5 per game), so they can be a defensively clinical side when they want to be.
"It's out of our hands,” fly-half Handre Pollard said of the prospect of progressing. “We have got to prep for whoever we play and if we don't play that is how the game goes. We played the game tonight out there and we tried our best. We have just got to wait and see what happens next.