Why Jar­den is king of wings

The Dominion Post - - Sport - IAN AN­DER­SON

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.


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.

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