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I have been given a golden opportunity to test my new rugby video and performance analysis software on an Aviva Premiership professional rugby team.
This endeavour is akin to Sabremetrics in North American professional baseball where one uses data-mining and intense statistical analysis to discover scientific, objective knowledge about the game that was previously unknown.
For example, in baseball a Seattle-based team with a limited budget of $40 million had to compete with a team like the New York Yankees who could afford marquee players with a salary budget of $125 million. It was found that conventional wisdom about assembling a team of good players was neither conventional, nor wisdom.
In the old convention, all of the scouts looked for a young pitcher with a blistering fastball and a high strikeout count. Through data analysis, it was found that not only was a pitcher with a high ground out ratio more valuable, but he was also cheaper on the open market.
This intensive analysis has been done with baseball, football and basketball. No one has yet done it with rugby. Rugby is a very dynamic game and stats abound, but they are all conventional stats that really do not measure what a player does minute by minute and apply that to the greater context of the play. Some software packages give you a minute by minute report, but it is meaningless unless you take it in the context of inputs, outputs and results, both on a micro and macro level. There is tons of minute-by-minute data, but very little pattern knowledge of what that data means.
I developed the piece of video analysis and annotation software that models and digitizes the entire game second by second. It is all put into a database in a proprietary format that allows extensive data-mining and statistical analysis of every second of every game.
There are a few software packages that give you a real wow-factor re-simulation of the game, and a whole pile of individual statistics about every facet of the game, but these are not very helpful in real life. What is helpful is garnering new knowledge -- objective knowledge about the sport and about your team. The way that it is done, is by taking statistics, facts, data and factors, and integrating that data into knowledge by making inferences, testing those inferences and endless cutting and re-dimensioning of data until statistically significant knowledge about the team and the game pops out. Nobody is doing this out there, and I will be the first. Like Sabremetrics, this will add objective knowledge about the sport of rugby on the macro level.
The most important aspect of this, is that the tool can isolate and chart characteristic on-field behaviour of the opposition, thus allowing the planning of a defense for a formidable opponent. Teams that are well coached consist of human beings with ingrained play patterns, and it is a valuable tactical advantage for an opposing team to know this. If you know the attack vector that is coming, you can plan for it. But it is not enough to know the attack vector, you have to know the probabilities and how it will play out, and how it changes with different parameters.
I am hoping to develop a model using Bayesian Predictive Analytics that will predict and spot the future Dan Carter superstars of rugby while they are pimply-faced teenagers.
This is a quantum leap forward compared to something like Opta stats, which dissects every game into component parts but just posts flat statistics that do not show why these events that they have dissected happen the way they do. RugbyMetrics is taking rugby performance analysis to the next level.