the num­ber game

NZ Rugby World - - Outside Influences - www.rug­byquiz.co.nz.

ONE OF THE DIF­FI­CUL­TIES IN TRY­ING TO DE­TER­MINE IN­FLU­ENCE IS MAK­ING FAIR AND VALID COM­PAR­ISONS BE­TWEEN THE AMA­TEUR AND PRO­FES­SIONAL ERAS.

The vol­ume of rugby played by the All Blacks in the last 20-or-so years has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally.

A typ­i­cal sea­son in the late ama­teur pe­riod would have seen the All Blacks play any­thing from six to nine tests. In the ear­lier ama­teur pe­riod the num­ber was much lower with the av­er­age sit­ting around three to five.

There were also no re­place­ments al­lowed back in the early ama­teur days.

Even in the late ama­teur era, re­place­ments were only al­lowed for in­jury, un­like the pro­fes­sional era where at first four sub­sti­tutes were al­lowed, a num­ber that has slowly risen to eight.

What all this means is that it is hard to com­pare the record of Keven Mealamu, say, who won 132 caps in a 14-year ca­reer be­tween 2002 and 2015 – 55 of which were from the bench – with, say, the 39 caps won by Ian Kirk­patrick be­tween 1967 and 1977.

Mealamu played in an era when the All Blacks were av­er­ag­ing 12.5 tests a year and some of his ap­pear­ances were for less than 20 min­utes.

For Kirk­patrick, only one of his 39 ap­pear­ances was as a re­place­ment and he played in a pe­riod when the av­er­age num­ber of tests was slightly more than four per year.

The so­lu­tion to even this out is maths, a for­mula to cre­ate era-ad­justed caps to bet­ter con­trast and com­pare the in­flu­ence of our cho­sen 50 All Blacks.

The for­mula is the brain­child of Shane O’Driscoll who is also the man be­hind

LONGER STINT Ian Kirk­patrick prob­a­bly would have played more tests than Keven Mealamu had he been around in the modern era.

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