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Why Scotland are better than England... and Ireland are the most successful Six Nations team

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Tom Fordyce | 22:27 UK time, Monday, 30 January 2012

I know, it's an inflammatory headline. But with the start of the 2012 Six Nations just a few days away, I've been nose-deep in numbers and notions in an attempt to work out which side really does deserve the title of the tournament's most successful side. And - Scotland fans, prepare to celebrate - that banner statement can genuinely be justified.

This is not a simple matter of matches won or titles secured. I wanted to factor in the vastly differing resources each nation has at their disposal - finances, manpower, rugby expertise - to see which countries are underperforming and which make the best possible use of their precious assets.

Do England win as many games as the Rugby Football Union's vastly superior budget would suggest? Are Wales' greater playing numbers, relative to both Italy and Scotland, reflected in their results? Should France, on logic, beat Ireland every year?

Before we begin, a caveat. Consider the following stats a fuse under pre-tournament arguments and pub discussions rather than scientific fact. They are designed to be provocative rather than predictive, rugby freakonomics rather than the basis for regime change. But they are intriguing nonetheless.

England have won eight of their 12 Six Nations matches against Scotland including last year, but do they make the most of their resources? Photo: Getty

Our results base first of all. I've used total wins by each nation over the last 10 seasons of the Six Nations - i.e. their last 50 matches. You could argue that we should go back to the tournament's expansion in 2000, but my way keeps the process neater and allows Italy, who made their debut in 2000, a few more years to get up to pace.

On total victories alone, the rankings look like this:

1. France 39
2. Ireland 35
3. England 31
4. Wales 23
5. Scotland 13
6. Italy 7

So far, so obvious. So let's factor in financial muscle. I'm using each governing body's turnover for the financial year 2009-10. It's not a perfect measure - it's just one year and revenues have fluctuated over the decade - but it gives us a snapshot. England, for example, had a turnover in that year of £112m, Wales £58.3m, Scotland £33.6m.

If we adjust the table so it reads wins per £1m of turnover, we get a different order.

1. Ireland 0.71
2. France 0.53
3. Wales 0.393
4. Scotland 0.386
5. England 0.28
6. Italy 0.23

Scotland supporters, there's your first taunt for English friends. Ireland, here's one good piece of finance-related news in an otherwise grim few years.

It's not great reading for the RFU, though. France appear to get almost twice as much bang for their buck as England. Where does all that money pouring into the RFU's coffers go, all that cash from those £80-a-head tickets?

Then again, budgets are not spent solely on the national team. Money also goes on other representative teams, plus the grassroots game, building projects and upkeep. The sums or correlations are not straightforward either. It doesn't figure that a nation with revenues of £50m should win twice as many games as one with £25m.

So let's feed in something else - the total numbers playing rugby in each country.

According to the International Rugby Board's most recent figures, England have 2,549,196 registered players, France 313,877, Ireland 153,000, Wales 50,557, Italy 66,176 and Scotland 38,500. Tweaking our table so it's now wins per 1,000 players, we have our first triumph for the Principality.

1. Wales 0.46
2. Scotland 0.33
3. Ireland 0.23
4. France 0.13
5. Italy 0.11
6. England 0.01

Hold on, I hear you saying. Are there really 2.5m rugby players in England? According to IRB figures, yes, but it's a technical anomaly. That figure includes teenage schoolboys and primary school kids who may have played a couple of games of tag rugby.

A much more pertinent figure is the number of senior males - over 18 years of age - registered in each nation. Calculated on that basis (England down to 166,762, France 110,270, Ireland 25,440, Wales 22,408, Italy 15,848, Scotland 11,687) gives us these wins per 1,000 adult male players:

1. Ireland 1.38
2. Scotland 1.12
3. Wales 1.03
4. Italy 0.44
5. France 0.35
6. England 0.19

Again, it's not great for England. They have comfortably the biggest playing pool of adult blokes. Suddenly France's 39 wins from 50 matches looks a touch less impressive, too. With all those players to choose from, with such an obvious rugby culture, shouldn't they be more successful at international level than Ireland?

Scotland, once again, rather than being perpetual Six Nations disappointments, now seem to be punching well above their weight. And for Wales, with a playing pool less than a sixth the size of England, to have won twice as many Grand Slams over the last decade as their bitterest rivals seems either miraculous or scandalous, depending on which side of the border you live.

Let's narrow it down still further - to the number of professional, internationally-qualified players each national coach has to pick from.

Here I'm indebted to colleague Bryn Palmer, who has spent several long train journeys immersed in club handbooks and detailed spread-sheets to give us the numbers.

His guidelines? The numbers include any player technically available for selection, including one-cap wonders or the aged and unlikely. For England, it discounts those playing their club rugby in France. For the French, it rules out anyone playing abroad, as national policy dictates. For Italy, only those at fully professional clubs are included.

That gives us these totals of available professional players:

1. England 333
2. France 319
3. Wales 141
4. Ireland 132
5. Scotland 90
6. Italy 75

So if we tweak the table once again to make it wins per qualified pro player, we get this:

1. Ireland 0.27
2. Wales 0.16
3. Scotland 0.14
4. France 0.11
5. Italy 0.0933
6. England 0.0931

England supporters, cover your eyes at the profligate waste of it all. Scotland, celebrate a triumph of frugal resources. Ireland, your quality blows away your shortfall of quantity.

One final thought. If you can't be the most successful, perhaps you can be the most entertaining. Which side has scored the most tries over the last decade?

1. France 140
2. England 139
3. Ireland 126
4. Wales 105
5. Italy 56
6. Scotland 53

So there we have it. Scotland are indeed a more successful side than England, based on financial resources and playing numbers. Ireland make the best use of their playing pool, while Wales, much like Mike Phillips, are solid in all areas. France are the most entertaining, while Italy are more creative than Scotland.

And England? Let's view 2012 as a chance to put a few wrongs right.


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  • Comment number 1.

    For those who have sleighed Scotland I think this will be illuminating. We punch above our collective weight by some distance.

    The only disappointing reading is the try count but at least a new 10 will unleash the try scoring Edinburgh backs this weekend...oh wait.

    "Money also goes on other representative teams, plus the grassroots game, building projects and upkeep."

    Surely this is the same for every country?! If anything the amount of representative teams required by each country would be a disadvantage to a smaller nation as they have to pay for the same amount with less money!

  • Comment number 2.

    I thought that was a very interesting article indeed. But then i'm irish and i would say that...

  • Comment number 3.

    Whilst this is actually pretty interesting, I can't help finding it a bit irrelevant? I doubt many true Scotland fans will be satisfied that they have more wins per turnover than England. Surely, they'll only be satisfied if/when they beat England and finish above them in the table. In club sport, these ideas are interesting and relevant (Read Moneyball) as players are bought/sold etc but in International sport I think its different. In the 6 Nations, where every game is so hotly contested, and brilliantly passionate, surely the only stat anybody cares about is winning, and beating such an old rival.

  • Comment number 4.

    This is all very enlightening and does highlight some serious issues with the set up within English rugby but the simple fact is that the success of the team is and always will be measured through how many games/competitions they win.

  • Comment number 5.

    *a team

  • Comment number 6.

    Try applying it to the World Cup - it turns out that Vatican City (a country) who puts no money into rugby, has no playing resources and never entered a tournament is the greatest team in the world.
    I wouldn't mind, but doesn't some of my TV License pay for you to come up with these ideas ?

  • Comment number 7.

    You said what, now?

  • Comment number 8.

    13 wins in 10 years is the only stat worrth paying attention to, and it's pathetic.

  • Comment number 9.

    After this article maybe you ought to give us a detailed study on Monkey tennis.

    "Well Gorilla's don't count because they're apes and nor do Chimpanzees, but Baboons, well they should only get half a point as they're a bit like chimpanzees, but if we double the number of active Chimpanzees ...."

  • Comment number 10.

    Lies, damned lies and statistics.

    Well researched, beautifully written and wholly irrelevant.

    The only stat that matters is the score at full time - any game, any level anywhere in the world.

    If the Scots insist on promoting pre-match commemorative T shirts ( no 'arrogance' there then Robbo?!) they could confidently go with "Calcutta Cup 2012 - Scotland - 0.33 wins per registered player" but I'm not sure they'd sell.....

  • Comment number 11.

    Totally pointless statistics I feel, in the sense that even if England won all their games they would still have lower stats than most teams due to the high number of players registered.
    Having said this I wouldn't deny that England have underachieved. I would put it more down to their tentative and defensive rugby as outlined in Graham Henry's recent comments

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Pure and simple these numbers miss out one vital issue - individual talent. Arguably you need less than 5 truly gifted players to make a stand out side.

    It also ignores the impact of other sports etc.

    While provocative - ultimately pointless

  • Comment number 14.

    any stats on how many forward passes each team has got away with or fallen victim to.

    or how many mysterious penalties have halted their momentum.

    or how many deliberate knock-ons haven't resulted in penalty tries in world cup finals

    it'll be interesting to see which team gets away with the most gamesmanship in the 6 nations this year - and how each team is refereed. blood capsule anybody?

  • Comment number 15.

    How was your lunch with Sir Graham?

  • Comment number 16.

    Just another artical trying to find anyway possible to knock England. Its getting so tiresome now. On Saturday 22 players will face 22 players. Out of 5 million or out of 50 million, does it make any difference. No. Look at NZ. I do find all the debates on population advantage a waste of time. Who is facing who and how do they face up is far more important.

  • Comment number 17.


  • Comment number 18.

    What about factoring in amount of World Cups won or World Cup finals reached?

    Pointless article

  • Comment number 19.

    Andy Robinson has laid out his stall. First half an arm wrestle and overpower Englands forwards. Second half as he did with Edinburgh up the tempo and hopefully blow them away. Fine if it works but don't discount the good young players England have. Haven't seen who England will pick but don't imagine any loosehead will fancy the Rev with weight behind him and Corbisero certainly won't fancy going up against Dr Geoff as he had him on toast a few weeks ago at Murrayfield in the Heineken Cup. Would have like to have seen John Welsh in as cover for Chunk. Don't take anything for granted.

  • Comment number 20.

    The number of registered players in a country has nothing to do with the nationality of those players. Still, don't let a tiny thing like a massive statistical anomoly bother you, in a piece that is pretty much all statistics.

  • Comment number 21.

    Haha, it only took six comments for the licence fee to be brought up, is that a new record?

    Interesting article Tom, if only, as you said, as fuel for pub banter. It has long been known that if sheer volume of available players won games England would always be world champions - my theory is that the size of the professional game in England actually goes against the quality of the national side. It is inevitable that a large number of the 333 professional players will be rather average club players who rarely start for the club 1st XV and never have had any hope of playing international rugby. As a result the truely talented players are playing alongside average players, next to whom they look extremely good. These players are not stretched as often as players in the Super XV or the Magners League and so do not improve as much.

    Only through a rather radical overhaul of the English system would, in my opinion, these stats ever be changed. Until then, the countries with fewer top teams will always do better statistically, as the best players consistently play with or against each other.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Tremendous article, yes some statistics are skewed by England's huge playing population, but it is very illuminating to consider how Scotland have remained competitive with such a small base. Thank you Tom, this is cracking stuff.

  • Comment number 24.

    And France are of course the most entertaining because they have scored one more try than England. Well yes in reality they can be very good value but given any reasonable measure of tolerance the difference is not significant - the numbers dont mean anything. And the numbers of total registered players is an often quoted but utterly misleading number.

  • Comment number 25.

    But even if England had won every game they'd played for the last 10 years they would still only be third in the table of wins per £1m turnover, last in wins per registered player, last in wins per adult player and third in wins per professional player.

  • Comment number 26.

    its just irrelevant. all you can say then is that england's strength is in numbers. additional needless cross referencing of statistics only serves to make losers feel better about themselves...a curious trait of the sporting culture of the 'other UK nations'

  • Comment number 27.

    #22 ANDYWASP. At least the Scottish tee shirts was a cock-up - putting old stock (sadly very old stock - 2008) Tee shirts on sale. In 1990 England had Grand Slam ties made before the trip for the decider at Murrayfield, and thanks to Messrs Hastings and Stanger they were later over-printed with a large boot kicking a bare English rear end.

  • Comment number 28.

    Are the Chinese the worst at everything in the world then????????

  • Comment number 29.

    As my original post was removed, I'll try again ;-)

    Totally pointless article, as previous people have said also. According to this article, China should be world champions at everything !

    At least I don't have to pay a license fee, lol.

  • Comment number 30.

    What would also be interesting would be to highlight the number of professionals, wins etc per head of population. If we could get the same take-up of the game as England, could Scotland reasonably hope to improve on our mediocre performance?

    On the basis of performance to date this season, I would have thought Ireland and France will be duking it out for a grand slam, and anyone with any sensitivity will be shying away from the thrashing the rest of us so richly deserve...

  • Comment number 31.

    What a hopeless statistician. Clearly you did not study Economics at Uni, nor maths at GCSE. You bang on about points scored for each £ in revenue.. If you compare the turnover of England (133 mill) to Scotland's (33 mill) it would seem clear that England has by far the superior financial clout. However you then discuss playing numbers and how many people England have playing- far far more than Scotland. So; in fact Scotland has more financial muscle per person! Not to mention Scotland is cheaper than England (in the main) which means you get more for your money. A ludicrous article, which will fuel many arguments in the pub, which are based on quite horrendous logic. I am dreading to hear the waffle come out of my friends (Scottish) as a result of this. A response would be fantastic. Cheers

  • Comment number 32.

    A really interesting article and good use of statistics, however, would be interested to see the ratio of number of wins per revenue to players. £112million English revenue has to support 2.5million players, and to notch up 31 wins, seems like a better ratio than any other country on that list!

  • Comment number 33.

    What a joke article.

  • Comment number 34.

    Rubbish. This is professional sport and the only thing that matters is results.

  • Comment number 35.

    Hilarious that Scotland fans are gloating over these stats. The only stat i am interested in if you ignore simply winning is which team provides the most entertainment.

    Scotland are scoring at 1 try a game....

    Scotland games are always the most dire by a long chalk, that is the only relevant statistic here. Maybe the Scottish Rugby Board should look at that stat and the fact they have a pitiful amount of over 18 players and put 2 and 2 together!!!!

  • Comment number 36.

    I've just done exactly the same thing but in fantasy world where England have won every game they have ever played.

    Games Won 31 50
    Turnover 0.28 0.45
    Registerd Players 0.01 0.02
    Senior Males 0.19 0.30
    Qualified Player 0.09 0.15

    Tom, they seem to be really under achieving winning 50 game out of 50.....

  • Comment number 37.

    This is interesting but as the blogger said in no way is accurate or represents mathematical logic. This is because the simply fact is that stats 'per head' always favour smaller countries. For example in 2008 Olympics one could say that despite China finishing top in the medals table they actually had a rather poor performance per head.

    Also if one considers that Brazil, with 5 World Cups are the most successful nation and a population of 200 million, does this mean that if Scotland win the world cup (population of 5 million) that for Brazil to say they have equal success they need to win it 40 times? Clearly not.

    I hasten to add that I say this not to defend England who undeniably punch considerably below their weight in a sport that is not widely played and one that they have the 2nd biggest population in. However if Scotland win the Rugby World Cup does this mean England, with 10 times the population, need to win it another 9 times for equality?

  • Comment number 38.

    18 Jasper Welch - I think the point of Tom's article is that England should be reaching a hell of a lot more finals and have won a couple more than just the one!

    Good stats and article Tom

  • Comment number 39.

    So what effect DO all those factors have on results? There could have been some actual science here.

    And we wonder why the public perception of statistics is so negative.

  • Comment number 40.

    Interested to see a blog about stats, but I'm surprised in reading those that you calculated. For example, surely spending per player is relevant here. If a country is larger, but less interested proportionately in a sport, it may have more players but less resources per player.

    just looking at the three countries for which you cited turnover, (happy to trust your figures) the figures of spending per registered senior male are:

    scotland £2875
    wales £2602
    england £672

    This obviously doesn't take into account how much of the union's funds are spent on the female game.

  • Comment number 41.

    I deduce from these figures that the Scottish RFU have something like 1/3rd of the income of the English RFU, and less than 1/50th of the players to spend it on. So any conclusion drawn by this piece that Scotland have been more successful than England is not only silly but actually ignores the facts in this piece.
    Heres looking to a competative and enjoyable 6 Nations with a little less horse manure flying around.

  • Comment number 42.

    Why England are better than Scotland.

    2011 RWC pool stages

    England 18 tries
    Scotland 4 tries

    6 nations try statistics

    England 187 tries
    Scotland 70 tries

    6 nations titles

    England 4
    Scotland 0

    England vs Scotland head to head overall

    England 69 wins

    Scotland 42 wins

    18 drawn

    Overall Win ratio of all test matches.

    England 57%
    Scotland 43%

    You can talk about playing populations,resources etc but it's the wins that count.

  • Comment number 43.

    (As an Englishman) I think the Scots are a great Rugby nation and do really well considering their resources. I've watched them beat England at Murrayfield and they've deserved it. When I visit Aberdeen I go to watch the old Grammar School team, am warmly welcomed in their clubhouse and have a great afternoon. But why oh why have they put Alex Salmond in charge!

  • Comment number 44.

    What a waste of an article. This is the normal tired old nonsense trotted out by the smaller countries when they lose a game. Who cares how much budget you have or how many professional players you have on your books? At the end of the day you get 15 men on the pitch the rest of the guys sitting back in the club house watching the game on TV don't have any influence on the game.

    What difference does it make how much of a turnover an union has? Are we supposed to believe therefore that the SRU are making the team walk to away games, camp over night and their training facilities consist of a couple of plastic bottles filled with water strapped to a stick and a run round the local park?

    Sorry Tom I suggest you decide to write about rugby rather than finances and people who are registered at clubs.

  • Comment number 45.

    And I'm afraid some if not all of these are quite misleading. If we work out £ spent per registered male: England spends £672, and Scotland £873, or £336,000 per professional male compared to £373,000 per professional male in Scotland. So England spends 90% of what Scotland spends per professional male, and has almost three times as many 6N wins to show for it...

  • Comment number 46.

    I think the entire article has been undone by comment 36.

    It was an interesting idea for an article but terribly executed.

  • Comment number 47.

    So is this confirmation that Wales with its achievement over a wide array of sports and a miniscule population is in fact a sporting superpower!

  • Comment number 48.

    Good pub debate fodder, but meaningless - as I'm sure you know.

    The number of potential players means nothing. Only a tiny percentage of professional rugby players will have had both the top quality coaching and the proper practice regime for a long enough period to have reached that level.

    Talent - if it exists at all - is not something that is proportionate to the size of a playing pool, it is something that comes about from fanatical dedication under the right guidance.

    If there is the set up to bring through youngsters from an early age with the right balance of coaching and personal dedication, there is no reason that a country with a pool of 1000 rugby players shouldn't be able to match one with 1m.

    It's the reason that a nation as small as New Zealand has been the best in the world at rugby since the dawn of time. Less people, but those they have are totally driven to become the best and have massive support from the earliest age. Dan Carter had his own rugby posts as a child and spent most of his childhood practicing with support from his parents and coaches. That is why he is so good - nothing to do with being born with any inbuilt rugby powers.

    Repeat that enough across a small population and you have a recipe for success. CF Australia, where rugby (union) is a minority sport played to backdrop of a sporting culture. They don't do too bad.

    There can only be 15 players on each side at a time. There is a level to which players can rise, and if you can get 15 (or 30) people in your country to rise to that level, it doesn't matter how many others some bigger nation has done the same with, you'll match them. Nothing to do with population, everything to do with attitude to the sport.

  • Comment number 49.

    The devil makes work for idle hands.
    Clearly too much time on your hands if you are able to research and draw such meaningless conclusions from a pile of unrelated and, to some extent, irrelevant statistics, inasmuch that they will have no bearing on the outcome of this years' 6 nations.
    Bring on some serious competition to write about.

  • Comment number 50.

    I'm sure it's all very nice but I stopped reading after you admitted that weighing investment against wins is a foolish ratio yet failed to remove or adjust it, thus rendering about 75% of your blog pointless.

    I realise it's all just folly anyway but I think it is prudent to highlight the criminal waste of investment in English rugby but u couldn't be bothered reading how you came to your conclusion when you admitted at the very first hurdle that it was an unfair equation

  • Comment number 51.

    cut the bullcr*p...........Winning is everything.........something Scotland dont do very often.

    Forget the stats, the final score is all that matters. Do you think die-hard Scotland fans are celebrating in the streets of Edinburgh because they have 'more wins per turnover' than England?

  • Comment number 52.

    An interesting analysis-

    Of course England often had its problems during the amateur era.. But I am one of those who saw the approach of the professional game with some trepidation, as an Englishman brought up with the idea that people played sport for the love of it. I think that many aspects of the professional era have been catastrophic for the English national side. Money is a terrible master, and I think that the decision to take the TV rights away from the BBC,where so many of us had learned to follow our national team, and make it the exclusive preserve of pay per view TV had a really serious impact upon a sport which was always going to struggle when the grammar schools were scrapped and fewer rather than more boys were exposed to the sport. The English RFU is awash with money- But this does not endear it to the English people- or to English players who never get a fair "look-in" because with money there is the temptation of the quick-fix- buy in a Rugby League superstar like Andy Farrell, or some Southern Hemisphere product who cannot get into the team of the land of his birth.

    Some of us are old enough to remember the genius of Brian Clough in the other form of football. His greatest teams were not those that he formed once he could start shopping around for million-dollar players.

    Moreover the actual number of people playing the sport is often irrelevant. In most English National teams no-one who is not playing in the highest league is likely to get considered for selection, though young English born players from lower leagues picked to play against England for their second country often outplay the higher paid and higher rated professionals.. As Geoffrey Boycott might well have said about the recent English cricket debacle- a total lack of character and real pride in genuine sporting prowess..

  • Comment number 53.

    Was there no rugby news to report on? Or was this a late night 'I've got to write something' moment? Whatever the reason was, it seems licence payers' money not well used this time around. Would be better focussing on why England dont do better given the resources (player pool, money etc). May it have something to do with lack of regular playing time together unlike the Celtic nations where the internationals (predominantly) play regularly together in a small number of teams (unlike the English Premiership)? Or perhaps we've had the wrong dynamic for some reason recently?

  • Comment number 54.

    lol so you slate england - evebn though the same could be said about france. then you praise france because they have scored 140 tries, england have scored 139. Please dont tell me there is an actually real difference between those figures!!

    I honestly cannot believe what a ridciulas article this is, i mean talk about someone you tries to make figures work for there point. There is a point to what he says , i totally agree, however i could reel of figures all day long with better outcomes for england- using a more realistic approach of applying data

  • Comment number 55.

    English motivation is to win the title.
    Scottish motivation is to beat England and if necessary roll over and get their bellies tickeld by France. This is exactly why England have a harder task than France.

  • Comment number 56.

    as a Scotland supporter, I actually disagree with this article. Sure we have significantly less resources than England but so do the pacific islands and argentina, and as far as I'm aware they're doing pretty well for themselves (well argentina not so much but yeah) even new zealand has less registered players than england, so judging by that is a poor measure of how good a team is. Its almost like you're pitying scotland in this article, and whilst we may be shockingly poor in the 6 nations (I'm yet to see a 6 nations where we perform well) scotland can be a much better team. Just look back to 1986 and you'll see what I mean. The difference in talent lies down to how badly Scotland switched over to professionalism when it turned that way in 95. I find this almost patronising, England are the better team and have been for a while, although on current form I'd say both teams are on a par, dependent on how this fresh look england performs. Saying Scotland is better however is absolute rubbish, you need only look at the world rankings to see how much 'better' we are and with Dan Parks at the helm we'll only get worse.

  • Comment number 57.

    What this really shows is that England, with the largest number of teams and divisions, has the most rugby players. However, no-one is going to pick National League One or two players - I know people who play for Newbury and, no offence, but I doubt they're troubling the England selectors. Even in the top division, England has more teams by virtue of having its own premiership. However, the number of world class players in almost any country is limited to those in and around the national side, which is the same number regardless of country.

    Finally, look at the smaller variants of the game, and you'll see England Saxons and Sevens teams, not to mention the age group teams, crush any of the 6 nations sides' respective teams.

  • Comment number 58.

    All in all an interesting post, however refering to Wales as a "Principality" is quite simply very disrespectful!

  • Comment number 59.

    As said above, this is utter rubbish lol playful, harmless but ultimately rubbish!

    If England had won the grand slam for the last 10 years consecutively they would still be in the bottom two or three of most of these tables, due to the original stats.

    Still, you north-of-the-borders, enjoy Operation StrawClutch...

  • Comment number 60.

    Hello all. Might just restate the caveat I placed right at the top of this piece:

    "Consider the following stats a fuse under pre-tournament arguments and pub discussions rather than scientific fact"

    Take it in that spirit, shall we? Even if the caveat already seems to have been self-fulfilling...

  • Comment number 61.

    touche tom, I seemed to skip over that bit when I choked over the title :P

  • Comment number 62.

    After shaking my head several times to make sure this article really exists, I would like to ask the question....

    What is more important? This Six nations, or The World cup?

    That is not encouragement for another pointless article for figures comparing world cup success against rain droplets in the sky. Its simply me hinting that England supporters are quite happy with 2003 (less than a decade ago), 2007 World cup Final, and a few great results in Australia in between.

  • Comment number 63.

    Yes all of you getting worked up are right; "the score/result/championships etc is what counts.... blah blah blah..." But IMHO the stats can offer a level of context to the results.

    It’s not a level playing field and never could be; does that detract from the spectacle? Hell no!
    Does it increase the glory for the underdog when in that one in a hundred game they come away with a win? Hell Yeah!

    You can’t have your cake and eat it… You either support the favorite (in this case England or France) and should expect to be there or there about’s every year, or you plump for the underdog and hope that every dog has it’s day, not matter how fleeting an occurrence it might be.

    Rugby isn't an American sport where we get stats thrown at us from every angle at every opportunity, so to read something like this doesn't justify Scotland/Italy being so terrible, but it does show that in a certain light, Scotland and Italy are making a success of their limited resources..

    There is also something to be said for the results over the last 10 years having a direct effect on Revenues, Participants etc etc so never going to be an accurate measure….

    Thought provoking analysis Mr Fordyce, thanks!

  • Comment number 64.

    Lies, Damn, Lies & statistics. Useless information. On this basis Roger Federer & Novak Djokovic should never win a tennis tournament let alone multiple Grand Slams

  • Comment number 65.

    It's a bit of fun, and the real point is that England should do better. The other factor is that the other nations (other than England and excepting Italy) are passionately passionate about beating England above anyone else. I bet the Welsh, Scots, French and Irish up their game against England.

  • Comment number 66.

    An error in this article which i found rather glaring was that it seems to assume that all victories are equal. As in a victory over Italy is equivalent to a win over France when clearly one is more difficult and a greater accomplishment. An outcome of looking at it without taking this into account is that for england to beat Scotland in the wins per £1million of turnover they would have to have won almost every match they played.
    Not sure how they could take this into account and i imagine it could get complicated very quickly.

    Its certainly a different way of looking at things and of course in judging teams you should note the difference in resources as well as results but in the end i don't think this makes much difference. In the end when england play scotland, there will be one delighted set of fans and one disappointed set.

  • Comment number 67.

    I occasionally watch what you have to say. I dread to think how much time you spent composing that utter drivel. Results speak for themselves no matter what stats you try to invent !

  • Comment number 68.

    Your story is why England are accused of being arrogant because they expect to win - of course they should. But numbers do not help - too many players to assess properly, too many imports to the league, no national team focus, no long term national development plan. And not many one - off world beaters. If resources are limited, coaches etc are forced to be ruthless and to focus. Not so in England.

  • Comment number 69.

    I guess this just shows why you need properly trained statisticians to do statistics. As several people have pointed out, by your measures, even if England had won every single game they had played, you would still say they were 'underachieving'.

  • Comment number 70.

    I think the article worked Tom!

    The difficulty being English is that everyone hates us because we're arrogant and have more money than them.

    I just think it's because we're better than everyone else.

  • Comment number 71.

    I wish this guy actually did cover monkey tennis. Would go hand in hand with his monkey stats

  • Comment number 72.

    This article doesn't make much sense. Tom has failed to take into account that the amount of players each team has on the pitch is not reflective of total playing numbers for each nation. Therefore the superiority of one nation over another because of playing numbers is severely diminished, by how much no one could possibly calculate.

  • Comment number 73.

    This is a light-hearted article, written from an interesting angle based on widely available facts, and is not written under the stuffiness or auspices of the Times or indeed the RFU, so to all those whinging about the (in)accuracies of the data or the approach, please, there are much more important things to think about... And stop spoiling the spirit of the game

  • Comment number 74.

    Re Craig at 30, with "England winning all 50 games still makes them underachievers" - don't forget that would affect the numbers for all other teams, because with England winning another 19 games, that's a lot less wins for everyone else - and thus their wins per £1m turnover, pro player etc would all drop significantly...

  • Comment number 75.

    What a ridiculous article Tom!

    Don't you people at the bbc have anything better to do than try and grab the headlines with pointless statistics, once again having a dig at england.

    You haven't mentioned current squads, individual players, england rebuilding, world cup history, the fact that scotland are at murryfield etc. etc.

    This doesn't mean a thing, all your basing it on is financial resources and playing numbers........ what a joke!!

  • Comment number 76.

    I think most of you are so fantastically over the top its rather like an episode of Fawlty Towers

    Get a grip i say! and take the article as its intended.

  • Comment number 77.

    this article is a load of absolute rubbish! If you want to big up Scotland fine, but you have to analyse New Zealand first in the same well. I expect you'll see that Scotland's heroic 'punching above their own weight' seems far less impressive compared with a country that has only 4.4 million people to Scotland's 5.2 but has still been far more successful.
    When you are a rich country like Scotland, (which they are relative to many of the other rugby nations that compete at the world cup for example) it is about instilling a certain attitude in the players. For one reason or another the Scottish players have been hopeless at closing out victories in the last 10 years (as I remember) and it is this attitude that needs to change before they improve.

  • Comment number 78.

    I always thought that politicians were the only people to "manipulate" facts ans figures to enforce the argument they wanted people to believe.If you look deep enough into anything there will appear something to build a case for-or against but I`m pretty sure that rugby fans of the home countries are only interested in the final result.
    Scotland 9 England 8 is probably only relevant to Scotland whereas England 9 Scotland 8 is relevant to England fans and the rest of the population couldn`t give a toss.
    We should accept this article in the light hearted manner in which it appears to be written and enjoy the matches when they come.

  • Comment number 79.

    well they are interesting stats but you could look at it another way.... england get more revenue and have more players BECAUSE they are more successful. success breeds interest. can't back that up at all but its as insightful as the facts above

  • Comment number 80.

    My mother once told me that if I had nothing to say, it's better not to say it.

    Might I commend that advice to you Mr. Fordyce?

  • Comment number 81.

    This article is based on the implict assumption that there should be a linear relationship between the amount a nation spends (or the number of players) and that nation's win ratio, without any attempt to explain why that should be the case - probably because it is clearly a nonsense.

  • Comment number 82.

    There all just numbers at the end of the day. As a Scots fand I'm only interested in the eradication of the try scoring drout.
    Scotland have been punching above their weight for years... but it all counts for nothing if you can score more points than their opposition.
    During the world cup Scotland had the beating of each of their opponents, but failed drastically through the inability to score tries.

  • Comment number 83.

    I couldn't care less about any of these statistics. Examples from across the world tell us that different countries come to success in different sports according to different criteria. In some instances it's grass roots participation (e.g. Brazil and football), in some cases it's spending on technology (GB and cycling), but ultimately sport is about winning and that is the most important judgement.

  • Comment number 84.

    As we all know stats actually mean little but can open some interesting debates. It certainly supports the general view that England should consistently be a better team than they are. Being Welsh I am going to have a slight bias against England anyway, but that aside, it is nice to see that the tables all support the fact that the Celtic teams are able to make more efficient use of whichever resources you care to use in each table and produce comparatively more successful teams.

    This has also been shown in the European Cup in recent years where the Irish sides are dominant and the Welsh and now Scottish sides have enjoyed a slight performance edge against the English clubs in recent seasons.

    Maybe the problem in England, when compared to the Celtic teams, is that it is too big, with too large a pool of players to choose from, and therefore the development opportunity is spread too thin. This is borne out by the later posts which look at how much would be spent per player. The Celtic teams with fewer players to choose from have to maintain a reasonably consistent selection policy with only 2 or 3 players per position to select from and then develop.

    If we recognize that the turnover should be going back into rugby at whatever level, and will develop the player base to bring on the professional players we can calculate a table of (very rough) turnover spend per player (i.e. Eng £112M to get 333 players):

    1. Wal - £414K per player
    2. Sco - £367K per player
    3. Eng - £336K per player
    4. Ire - £188K per player
    5. Fra - £65K per player
    6. Ita - £22K per player

    This shows that Wales are investing the most in generating each professional player, closely followed by Scotland and then England. Using these figures against the wins will give the following table of investment efficiency.

    1. Fra - £2K per win
    2. Ita - £3K per win
    3. Ire - £5K per win
    4. Eng - £11K per win
    5. Wal - £18K per win
    6. Sco - £28K per win

    This shows that France, Italy and Ireland use their turnover more efficiently. What is does not show is that Scotland and Wales were both in poor financial states during the early part of the 10 year period and have both been paying off excessive debts in the time up to the 2009/10 turnover figures. England have always been in profit, particularly following the success of the 2003 WC and relative success of the 2007 WC as well. Neither does it show that private investors bankroll the clubs in both France and England far in excess to the Celtic and Italian counterparts. Both Wales and Scotland have had to cut the number of professional clubs in line with the model in Ireland to ensure that the money and investment is able to create competitive clubs and players. Italy have now created two clubs along a similar line and are starting to show real promise.

    What does any of this show? Nothing really, but it does give us Celtic fans something to gloat about before we each meet England. Hopefully we'll all have something to gloat about afterwards, but then again maybe not as the only stat that counts is how close the tournament is going to be among the Home Unions based on WC form, post WC shakeups and and respective injuries. France and to a growing extent Italy are both as unpredictable as ever.

  • Comment number 85.

    @58 I agree completely, I am half English and Welsh and I found that reference to Wales being a principality completely insulting. Wales is a country. Do your research Tom!

    Finally, wins are the only thing that counts. The one that wins the most is the most successful. End of.

  • Comment number 86.

    Complete, if entertaining garbage, garbage from beginning to end - please Tom have the grace to turn down your Stephen Hester-style bonus when it's your turn. There are other ways to look at it. Scotland has about 27% of England's professional players to choose from but only 10% of the population, similarly 27% of revenue, or thereabouts. On that basis Scotland might be said to have underperformed in terms of revenue to population. We can all agree that Scotland are the most boring side, even more than Italy - and most of us go to rugby to be entertained

  • Comment number 87.

    Well I like the piece, caveats and all. That was fun!

  • Comment number 88.

    Interesting blog, but for God's sake I wish people would stop piling expectation on the England boys. Get tired of people knocking England (often after they've previously been over-hyped), it's the same with the cricket and football. I wish people would quit carping and just get behind them!

    Yes depth of resources helps, but when all's said and done it's 15 professional athletes versus 15 professional athletes.

    Respect to the Scots but i would LOVE IT if we beat them on saturday and then went on to have a good six nations campaign.

    Come on England.

  • Comment number 89.

    Harmless and interesting piece. Let's face it though the Celtic nations have an advantage in how they qualify for the Heineken Cup...I don't follow the Pro 12 but let's face it the Scottish Teams don't exactly have to flog themselves to ensure automatic qualification for the Heineken Cup....neither do the Irish or the Welsh either really.

  • Comment number 90.

    Tom - you are right and are supported by none other than Graham Henry in his comments recently on England's underperformance relative to their (our actually) player numbers and resources. However, one important item you haven't mentioned is the difference between the central contracts that some countries have (Wales) and the club contracts that others have (England). This allows the central rugby body to dictate and control the number of games that the players play for their clubs and how much time the players spend training as a country. Look also at the performance difference between our national football and cricket teams for evidence of this difference with the cricketers being centrally contracted and rarely playing for their counties nowadays. I wonder if we can ever win a football or rugby world cup when our players are club properties first and foremost.

    It's going to be a very difficult 6 Nations for England and I'm not looking forward to it, rebuilding excuses or not!

  • Comment number 91.

    As a naturalised Australian currently living in Scotland why not include the Southern Hemisphere Nations. Rugby Union is very much a minority sport in Aus - talk about them punching above their weight! NZ a national sport, SA slowly including all races (SA Football/Cricket is thankfully well on the way there). Don't know any numbers about Argentina.

    Then what about Tonga, Samoa and Fiji? Fiji are a good pick for the 2012 Olympic 7's. No money, mostly exile players, fantastic and entertaining as teams - they have got to be, without question, the 1,2,3 on these calculations surely!

  • Comment number 92.

    I thing you may had a shocker here Tom.

    This article is almost as embarrassing as the whole Scotland debacle with the 2012 Calcutta Cup winning t-shirts!!!

  • Comment number 93.

    Hi tom, a provocative blog, but maybe not the type of response you were anticipating?!

    However... To play along for a moment, do your investment stats for ire, Fra and ita include the fluctuations in exchange rate over the last 10 years? Remembering £1 was worth about EUR 1.5 when the currency was introduced, it is now about 20% more valuable. Even with the crisis. This means that managers of those 3 teams would to get disproportionately more value from their investment than eng, wal or scot over the same period!

  • Comment number 94.

    Interesting blog but got the response i expected from the English fans.

    I all fairness its down to who wins the games and unfortunately England are ahead of Scotland in that respect.

    Still expect a decent game on Saturday, hope Scotland can go out and win.

    PS it was an admin error that lead to the RE-sale of the 2008 calcutta cup win. And anyway fairly sure that trick has backfired on the English.

  • Comment number 95.

    Well, I am completely astounded by the level of sheer stupidity contained in the majority of the comments in regard to this article. I find it amazing that these people can find their way onto the internet and post, given the level of intelligence displayed in their comments. Surely there's a program running somewhere, deep in the bowels of the BBC dedicated to breeding monkeys who can be trained to respond to blogs in a bid to make the blogger feel relevant. Obviously, it is still in early developmental stages and they've targeted this one today. It can't be real people, real people aren't that stupid surely?

  • Comment number 96.

    What a fiendishly clever piece of journalism, I wonder how impressive though, New Zealand's figures would be? They are a similarly small nation punching above their weight to ongoing unrelenting dominance.

    To those who think this article is irrelevant, this is why you are wrong: It proves that something systemic is wrong with English Rugby, Scotland are probably doing all they can to be where they are, but England clearly are not. It proves that England have no excuses for their mediocrity.

    Wholesale reform of the game's government and coaching is clearly required

  • Comment number 97.

    @ Robin Holroyd - maybe so, but surely nothing compared with England's salute to the Grand Slam they didn't win - now that was embarrassing and cheesy. Tom - good stats. Personally I find the level of denial exhibited here nicely mirrors the status quo at the RFU.

  • Comment number 98.

    Good man Tom!

    You seem to have put a fair few prissy souls' noses out of joint with a light hearted piece.

    Not the sort of folk would want to rely on in a full on test match eh?

  • Comment number 99.

    This blog really is a total waste of time. I can see how it might have seemed like a good idea in theory, though in practice it is totally pointless. The fact is that just via the random nation of sport, teams like Scotland will get results in the six nations just by taking part, when they outplay their opposition on the day. Overall the bigger nation should get more victories but it's ridiculous and stupid to imagine it should be proportional to their size.

    All this article tells me is that England have slightly underperformed by having fewer titles (4) than France (5), but not by that much, given they are quite close.

  • Comment number 100.





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