Run DMC Finally Over Bender?

 

McKenzie Smith high ball

We’re halfway through the Super Rugby season and only a matter of weeks away from the naming of the All Blacks squad for the much anticipated test series against the British and Irish Lions. So Rugby Boss thought we’d breakdown the contenders for some of the contentious positions each week, starting with full back.

 

With the two incumbents, Ben Smith and Israel Dagg, seeing limited game time through injuries, there is potentially room for a bolter. Run DMC (Damian McKenzie) continues to excel at Super Rugby level. On a per minute basis, he leads his rivals in fantasy points, metres gained, defenders beaten, and successful tackle %.

Full Back Radar Plot
New Zealand full back statistics on a per minute basis (Israel Dagg omitted due to too little game time)

DMC is fantasy gold dust, and if All Black selections were based on fantasy stats, he’d be the first name on the team sheet. But the game isn’t played on paper, or a spreadsheet, it’s played on grass. Ben Smith may not be putting up the headline numbers that McKenzie or even Jordie Barrett are, but he’s safe as houses behind that All Black backline and it’s no surprise to see him leading in clean breaks while conceding the least turnovers.

 

As we have stressed numerous times, this is where Run DMC let’s himself down. He has far and away the highest turnover rate of the rival full backs (see chart above) and it appears to be a real achilles heel of his game. He is averaging 2 turnovers per 80 minutes of action (see table below), a stat that just won’t cut it at test level.

 

As we mentioned in an article last week, Jordie Barrett is a real up and comer, putting up very impressive try, try assists, offloads, defenders beaten, and metres gained stats. His achilles heel right now would appear to be tackling, his successful tackle percentage of 61% (11 made, 7 missed) just not up to it at any level of the game. He’s definitely one for the future, a shoe in for the November tour you would think. The Lions series is too soon for him, and injuries ahead of him are probably the only way to see him in black in the Rugby Championship.

 

Michael Collins has come from nowhere to be a real story for the Blues. He’s not putting a foot wrong, but you can see from the chart above that while he’s efficient, he’s just not matching it with the big boys of the position in terms of attacking prowess.

 

It’s been a disappointing follow up to Israel Dagg’s comeback season last year, with injury forcing him out since round 3. He’s fought too hard to get back in the All Blacks mix not to be back in the reckoning before long. The latest estimates give him a month of action to tune up for the Lions series which may not be enough for him to assert himself in a packed race. It is interesting that his per minute fantasy points were only a fraction behind DMC prior to his injury.

 

Rugby Boss Prediction for All Blacks vs Lions series:

Starting Full Back: Ben Smith

Reserve Full Back: Damian McKenzie

Missing out on squad: Israel Dagg, Jordie Barrett, Michael Collins

 

Full back performance Super Rugby
New Zealand fullbacks performance per 80 minutes of action in 2017 Super Rugby

 

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