Six Nations and the Bonus, Part 2

In part 1 I looked at how the addition of a bonus point would have retroactively affected the six nations and what it might mean for the future. To further explore this point I’m going to look at the impact it had on other competitions. mainly the World Cup and the Tri Nations/Rugby Championship. I dont think its appropriate to compare it to such competitions as Top 14, Pro 12, Super Rugby because bonus points have a much different impact over the course of a long season. I want to look at the impact it has over a short number of games at an international level.

One of the issues I have with the bonus point introduction is that it will lead to a “beat up the weaker teams” mentality. So I wanted to explore that a little. The rugby world cup consists of 4 groups with five teams in each. Two teams will qualify from each of these to the knockout stages. The group stages have a bonus point in place. One point is awarded for scoring four or more tries and one point for losing by seven or less points. So how were these bonus points awarded? The image below shows the distribution of points over the last three world cups. The large majority of points were gained against teams who did not qualify and more losing bonuses were gained against teams who did. A lot of these came from the second place team doing well with whoever came first in the group.

world cup bonus points
TB = Try Bonus, LB = Losing Bonus, vQ = versus Qualifying team, vNQ = versus non Qualifying team

Granted this isn’t a totally fair comparison as the talent distribution is far greater in the world cup than in the six nations. But it shows that attitude can arise and I don’t feel like it will make things more entertaining. The chart below shows how many tries each team are scoring per championship. The discrepancy between the number of tries shows that the attitude may arise when it comes to teams like Italy and Scotland. The matches against the other teams are far more important to win, than to get that four try bonus. Of course grabbing that losing bonus is important but that was discussed in part 1.

But, for comparison, how do these close matches play out in the southern hemisphere in the Tri Nations and now the Rugby Championship? Quite varied as it turns out. The chart below shows the number of losing bonus points and try bonus points awarded over the last six years. I used per game number for this as the number of games changed from 9 to 6 and then 12 once argentina were introduced. Some years were high on losing, some were high on trys and others matched up evenly. Which is quite different to the picture from the Six Nations retrospective. So maybe this is partial evidence that the introduction of a bonus point would in some ways change the attitudes so that it is not always about the losing bonus.

bonusPerGameSouth That is the major point that people bring up. The fans, the media and everyone seems to want more tries in northern rugby. And while there isn’t a major difference, the Northern Hemisphere are scoring more tries per game in their respective competition than in the Six Nations. The souther competition had 1.96 more tries per game than the north. These results may have been swayed by the crazy 2010 however. This goes along with the style of play of the Southern Hemisphere teams. The issue I have is, do we really want the Northern teams playing like the South.

Comparison between Southern and Northern Teams

Using recent history, England beat France 55 points to 35. And everyone will remember this for the crazy scoring and England just about losing out on the Six Nations (and Huget trying to break the hearts of the Irish but that’s for another day). The significant statistic to look at in that game is 35 points. England gave up 35 points while scoring their 55 and lost the six nations because of it. Wales had a chance at winning because of a great defensive effort against Ireland. So the question that arises, is it worth losing for more entertainment? The neutral fan would say yes but I’d imagine the players would not agree.

So there are a lot of interesting points to consider when looking at introducing a bonus point. Personally I think it will arrive sooner rather than later. With the Six Nations being one of the few competitions without it, it seems logical for it to catch up with everyone else. Will it make a difference? I hope so. Not to necessarily favour tries over defence but hopefully to keep teams competing for longer and open up the competition a bit more.


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