Leinster head into Saturday’s European Rugby Champions Cup final with an unbeaten tournament record, and comfortably the best per-game points difference (+14.5) and try difference (+2.0) of all teams in the competition. This average margin of victory dwarfs that of their opponents Racing 92 – who have averaged +4.9 points and +0.8 tries per 80 mins on their way to a 6-2 record – and was achieved despite drawing three very strong opponents in the pool stage. Exeter, Glasgow and Montpellier each top their respective domestic league tables at the end of the 2017-18 regular season, but were defeated home and away by the Irish province; only one of Leinster’s six pool victories (Round 4 at home to Exeter) came by fewer than 7 points.
Saracens and Scarlets – defending Champions Cup and Pro12 champions respectively – were no more successful in their visits to Dublin, and after 11- and 14-point victories at the quarter- and semi-final stages only Racing stand in the way of a perfect season for Leinster in Europe’s premier club competition.
Continue reading “Statistical analysis: Leinster’s path to the Champions Cup final” →
A star at Grey College, a Currie Cup and Super Rugby regular for the Free State Cheetahs as a teenager and a capped Springbok shortly after his 20th birthday, this was not the trajectory that many expected Johan Goosen to follow. The prodigiously talented fly-half – still only 23 years old – saw his promising career in his homeland waylaid by a series of long-term injuries, and the emergence of starlet Handré Pollard in their wake; in August 2014, he joined up with Racing 92 in the Top 14 in search of new challenges and – as he has openly admitted – financial stability. His first two seasons in Paris have seen a run in with first-team coach Laurent Labit, and opportunities in his favoured 10 shirt limited by the presence of established stars Jonny Sexton and Dan Carter. He made only 8 starts in the Top 14 in the 2014/15 season, and during the majority of this campaign has rotated between starts at fullback and a role on the bench. However, during the knockout stages of the Champions Cup he has been utilised in an unfamiliar role at outside centre and has played well individually in some impressive team performances over the last couple of months. His contest with the impressive Duncan Taylor will be one of many captivating match-ups in Lyon tomorrow afternoon, and it will be intriguing to see how Saracens attempt to attack a player who – out of his natural position in the centres – may represent the relative weak link in Racing’s excellent defence.
Below, I will take a look at some of the qualities Goosen displayed when he came on to the scene in the southern hemisphere in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, and examine his semi-final performance in detail to look at what he offers the Parisians in this position and potential weaknesses Saracens may exploit.
Continue reading “Player analysis: Johan Goosen” →