among the Blues, data and men

The slightest of their gestures will be scrutinized, dissected, and will become a line of data. When they enter the lawn of the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday February 11 (3:15 p.m. Paris time) for their second meeting of the Six Nations Tournament, the players of the XV of France will be like a colony of ants under the magnifying glass of an observer. Every movement on the first touch between the Blues and Ireland – and all subsequent actions – will feed a database, match after match, whose objective is clear: to improve overall performance and leave as little space as possible randomly. Passionate about “analytics” and any tool capable of fine-tuning his device, Fabien Galthié, the French coach, has incorporated data – i.e. statistical data that can be collected, dissected and analyzed – in the arsenal of his staff.

“We have made available to the XV of France a platform which makes it possible to centralize match data, training data and GPS data, to analyze them, visualize them and even to do machine learning and artificial intelligence with these », explains Charlotte Douette, datascientist at SAS. In November 2022, the leading French analytics company entered into a partnership with the French Rugby Federation (FFR) to “Insert data into the decision-making process of French rugby staff and teams”.

For Fabien Galthié, accustomed to interventions in companies – he notably intervened at SAS – during which he observed that “Data analysis has been a decision support tool in the business world for twenty years”the process is logical. “We thought about how to integrate it into our homeexhibited the Lot technician in November, by wanting to answer these simple questions: how to train better to be better in matches? How do we beat our next opponent? What did the teams that beat him, and those that didn’t do? »

“Technology battle plan”

Qualified for “technology battle plan” by the FFR, the system has been developed jointly between the company and the French staff for nearly two years. “We started with the touch, a strategic action [au cours de laquelle] you can lose the ball, or steal it from the opponentsays Charlotte Douette. And, as we didn’t really know the world of rugby, we had to immerse ourselves in this environment, acquire its vocabulary. » Since 2019, SAS has dissected 1,492 matches (international, Top 14, or under 20, current series), and lists each action – player position, sidelines, throwing speed and distance… The result exposes the strengths and weaknesses of the two teams, and allows Karim Ghezal, coach in charge of conquest and specific tasks – and more specifically the touch – to adapt his system.

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