Has The New Bonus Point System Worked In The Six Nations?

Has the bonus point system worked in the Six Nations? Lets look at the numbers.

Bonus points mean tries, so we’re told. Not only does the bonus for four tries drive up the scoreline of the winners, the bonus for coming within 7 points means the losers have to score tries too. Introducing the bonus point system into the Six Nations should make it start raining tries.

So now we’re past the halfway point, let’s see if the new system has had any impact. Let’s compare this Six Nations after three weeks to the Six Nations of 2014-16 over the same period.

Q. Simple first question: Have more tries been scored?

A. It depends. The honest answer is yes. So far there have been 40 tries in the tournament, compared to an average of about 28 at this point in the competition in previous years. So that’s a remarkable jump, it’s true.
But when we remove the results of Italy games, it’s a different picture. 22 of those 40 tries have been scored in Italy’s games, and not many were scored by Italy. They’ve sadly been on the receiving end of two big hammerings. Even the England game was a big loss, on the scoreboard at least.

Q. So is it only having an impact on Italy games?

A. If we leave aside the Italy games, we see that 18 tries have been scored so far this year. And if we do the same for the last three years, the average is about 15 tries.
So more tries are being scored. This is true, whichever way you look at it, including Italy games or without them. But the increase is nothing to get excited about, nothing to claim success about. In fact, if you leave aside Italy games, the amount of tries scored is only increasing by a measly 0.5 tries per game, compared to the previous three years.

Q. Surely the losing bonus point is making a difference?

A. Well no, unfortunately. If there was a losing bonus point system in place in the Six Nation in 2015 and 2016, more would have been awarded at this stage than have been awarded so far in this year’s competition. So winning margins are getting wider.
Now, good or bad can be read into that. In longer competitions, like the Pro 12, there’s less pressure to deny your opponents a losing bonus point. In the overall scheme of things it doesn’t matter too much. But maybe in the Six Nations the pressure is on to deny your opponent. So the increase in winning margins can actually be spun as a positive, if you’ve a mind to. It’s perhaps evidence the teams are more aggressive.

Q. So was the bonus system pointless?

A. It’s probably the wrong year to know. With France and Scotland on the up, England and Ireland dreaming of making history, Wales and Italy experiencing coaching changes, and Lions tour selection looming over the players, it’s perhaps a year that didn’t need any match incentives.
But certainly by the stats it’s had no overall impact outside of Italy games. By the stats it’s just made the Azzurri even bigger targets for the main title contenders.
Though outside the numbers there’s no denying it’s been a great tournament to watch so far. And if it’s true that this is the most evenly matched Six Nations in years we’ll need to wait for a more uneven year to see if the bonus system gives the people, or at least the organisers, what they want, more tries.

Oh and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @murphyniall2012

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