Why Jarden is king of wings
ANALYSIS: Last October, the rampaging All Blacks gave the Wallabies a trowelling, six tries to one at Eden Park.
Winger Julian Savea scored two tries to take his tally in tests for New Zealand to 45 - in only 49 tests.
‘‘The Bus’’ was set to run over the record for All Black test tries he was just four short of the mark held by Doug Howlett.
He was acclaimed as phenomenon - at his peak, a man his rivals struggled to halt as he rampaged to the tryline, one with a starring role in a winning World Cup campaign, and at 26 poised to set a try-scoring mark that could stand for decades.
A year on, it’s conceivable that Savea may never pull on an All Black test jersey again.
His name was missing this week from the roll call for the 37 players to tour the northern hemisphere, with Rieko Ioane, Waisake Naholo, Seta Tamanivalu and Matt Duffie chosen as wing.
But while Savea’s career has dramatically stalled, Ioane has roared off the grid as the next big thing in All Black wings.
The 20-year-old has nine tries in his first 10 tests – hinting that his try-scoring exploits could put Savea, Howlett, Joe Rokocoko, Christian Cullen et al in the shade.
So is the greatest All Black tryscorer of all-time simply the ‘next’ winger who plays a host of tests?
Aren’t they just beneficiaries of an era in which test rugby sides score a swag more tries than their predecessors from generations past?
Simple answer – yes. Adjusted statistics say that if Ron Jarden had played in the ‘‘Savea Era’’, he would have been the most efficient All Black tryscorer in history.
Next best, using the same measurements? Stu Wilson.
That’s despite Jarden scoring ‘‘only’’ seven tries in the 16 tests he played between 1951 and 1956, while Wilson touched down 19 times in 34 appearances in the black jersey from 1977 to 1983.
THE SAVEA RATING
During Savea’s 54 tests, the All Blacks scored 234 tries - 4.33 tries per game, of which Savea scored 20 per cent of those five-pointers.
So to get the ‘‘Savea Rating’’ for our list of notable test try-scorers – in an effort to get a more ‘fair’ comparison of the try-scoring abilities of players from different generations – I’ve used this format:
The number of tests played by the tryscorer x the Savea-era tries per game rate x the player’s tries per total team tries percentage, divided by the amount of tests they played.
That allows the adjustment to each player’s try-scoring prolificacy, had they been playing when tries were far more plentiful.
In Jarden’s 16 tests, the All Blacks scored 25 tries - 1.56 per game. That’s almost three tries per game fewer than the All Blacks tallied when Savea played.
Jarden’s seven tries accounted for a whopping 28 per cent of his team’s haul.
Even in Wilson’s times, tries were still hard to come by - 2.21 per game, just more than half as many during Savea’s spell in the side.
So the ‘‘Savea Rating’’ is designed to account for how different test rugby’s try-scoring rates have been - much like how basketball statistics can utilise a ‘pace of play’ variable to more efficiently find the true measure of teams’ offensive and defensive efficiencies, or how MLB analyses the dominance of ball and bat in different eras to give a ‘truer’ representation of a player’s ability.
Since Ioane’s debut last year, the All Blacks have scored tries at a hectic rate - 4.70 tries per game.
But they were prolific during the early 2000s too – Howlett’s 49 tries came in 62 tests when New Zealand averaged 4.87 tries per game – a better rate than the sides Savea has played in over the past four years.
If you wish to argue that seven tries and 16 tests isn’t a big enough sample size for Jarden, he was a ‘‘victim’’ of the scarce programme of tests New Zealand played during the 1950s.
Jarden went on a number of All Black tours, but he played as many matches against the likes of Central-Western Districts, Leicestershire and East Midlands and Pontypool and Cross Keys as he did Australia, England and Wales.
There were no tier two or three nations for Jarden and his teammates to run riot against either – his test opponents were Australia, England, France, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.
Wilson scored 19 tries in his 34 tests, in an era when tries were still relatively rare compared to the past 20 years.
What stands out about the elusive right wing was he individually accounted for 25 per cent of all All Black tries during his international career.
The following list doesn’t include all of NZ’s leading tryscorers - rather some of its bestknown wingers from different generations. It’s designed to compare well-known players, different eras and it does include the top four.
Interestingly, Howlett only just cracks the top-10 in ‘adjusted tries per game’.
I’ve also included the phenomenal Christian Cullen too, despite playing the vast majority of his tests as a fullback – and sometimes at centre.
John Kirwan, left, carves up the Wallabies in 1990 and Jonah Lomu, right, gives them a repeat dose in 1996.