After On Top Of The Moon’s look at tackle completion yesterday, today it’s time for a run through of the players with the highest work rates in the PRO14. The 713 men who featured during 2017/18 made 43,870 tackles and carried the ball 35,627 times. Based on their combined numbers for those two stats, averaged over 80 minutes, who were the top performers in the league?
Ed Byrne’s insane work rate may be inflated slightly by a lot of his minutes coming in short bursts off the bench at the end of games – but it’s still insane! Against Connacht in Round 12 he only played 30 minutes but during that time managed to squeeze in 8 carries and 17 tackles. Even taking ball in play time at a very generous 60% that would mean he was getting off the line to take contact in attack or defence every 43 seconds – not bad for an 18 stone prop.
The Kings duo of Bobby de Wee and Dries van Schalkwyk got through a mountain of work during their time on the pitch. De Wee’s performance is particularly impressive given he was generally an 80 minute player, going the full distance on 15 of his 16 starts. That meant his work rate covered the early enthusiastic minutes right through to the energy-sapping denouement of a lot of losing efforts.
Sergio Parisse may have a record number of Test match defeats on his CV and definitely has a fondness for the odd Hollywood play or two but he has never given less than 100% for his country. That seems to be inspiring a new generation of Energizer bunnies in the back row that may improve Italy’s Six Nations performances. Sebastian Negri is the stand out combining an superb season for Benetton with breaking through at Test level. With Maxime Mbanda also on this list (plus Renato Giammarioli and Giovanni Licata just outside the top 10) the Azzuri look well stocked for young back rows.
The Hornstings partnership of George Horne at scrum half and Adam Hastings at stand off took their first tentative steps together for Glasgow against the Kings back in October. They rounded out the season putting Argentina to the sword for Scotland in Resistencia. Both are high work rate, high involvement players who want to have as much impact on the game as possible. There will be teething troubles and lessons to learn but their PRO14 form has put both young men in a strong position to make Scotland’s World Cup squad at the end of the current season.
Irish midfielders dominate this list, largely by the simple expedient of their inside backs making sure to put the ball in their hands as much as possible. Simple but effective when there’s the type of talent in the centres that will consistently make ground. Henshaw, McCloskey and Robb tend towards the more physical end of the spectrum while Ringrose and Reid add a bit more guile. What all of them have in common absolutely no shirking a bit of graft whether that’s in attack or defence.
James Lowe is another in the long line of Kiwis who have demonstrated that despite being not quite good enough to make the All Blacks they’re still superb players. His high work rate for carries and tackles arises even though he only runs with the ball just over the half the time – his kicking and passing is almost as significant when it comes to his contributions to the Leinster cause.
Want a PRO14 select that would just work, work, work every day? This is what it would look like:
Minimum qualification – 240 minutes played
Stats source – http://espn.co.uk match reports