Jonny Gray – 378
There’s really just one name in the conversation in defence with Jonny putting up his usual stellar numbers. Hamish Watson is the only other player to make 300+ tackles since Gregor Townsend took over. Even if tackles are averaged across minutes played, Jonny remains the clear leader with the former Glasgow lock making 18.3 tackles per 80 minutes for the national side. Hamish remains the next best by this measure as well, notching up 16.6 tackles made. There are plenty of forwards completing 90%+ of their tackles but again Jonny is the top dog with a success rate of 97.2% having missed just 11 tackles for Scotland over the last 3 years.
Among the backs it’s the 10/12 channel that has seen the most action with Peter Horne making 154 tackles and Finn Russell making 140. On a per minute basis it’s the hyperactive Horne brothers with the highest workrate – the only players to average 10+ tackles per 80 minutes in the backline. Wee brother George averages 10.1 which is just beaten by the 10.6 from big bro Pete.
Stuart Hogg – 259
While the forwards do the majority of the carrying (54%) it’s a back who has been on the ball the most frequently during the Townsend era. Understandably when there’s a player of Hoggy’s quality who can make something out of nothing it’s a good idea to give him possession as much as possible! 12.0 carries per 80 minutes for Stuart is just bested by 12.2 from Adam Hastings who has been the most willing of Scotland’s stand offs to select the running option ahead of passing or kicking.
For sheer volume of work over the last 35 games Jonny Gray (213 carries) and Stuart McInally (194) have been the biggest contributors in the pack. It’s among the back row that the really big numbers per 80 minutes come though. Magnus Bradbury and Matt Fagerson have managed a creditable 13.4 and 14.8 runs per game respectively. Top of the tree in this respect is David Denton though. The retired number 8, whose default setting was to hammer the ball up as hard as possible, averaged 16.0 carries per 80 minutes in the early days of Toony’s time in charge.
Most clean breaks
Sean Maitland – 28
The wing / full back with a habit of scoring at Murrayfield has the most line breaks in the Townsend era. At a clean break for every 4.9 carries though there a couple of players who can lay claim to being even more effective in this area. Darcy Graham breaks the line every 4.5 times he runs the ball. Even the Prince of Hawick has to give way to George Horne who manages a clean break for every 3.6 carries.
This is not a stat where the forwards tend to excel but it’s worth noting that Rory Sutherland has the best numbers in the pack with an average of a clean break for every 17.0 carries (granted that’s because he’s made a single clean break – a memorable one against England – in the 17 total carries he made during this season’s Six Nations…)
Most defenders beaten
Stuart Hogg – 67
One for the lads running from deep with Hoggy and Blair Kinghorn the only players to break 50+ tackles in the last 3 years of Scotland action. Again, for a fairer comparison averaging this across their carries Darcy Graham (a defender beaten every 2.6 runs) comes in ahead of his more experienced back 3 colleagues (Hogg – 3.9; Kinghorn – 3.0). There’s one player with even more remarkable numbers in this area though – Nick Grigg is a tackle breaking machine (once every 2.2 carries) due to the fact it is incredibly difficult to put him to ground.
The forwards get a bit more involved when it comes to running over people but one name stands out a mile. With a tackle broken for every 4.0 carries, the Pinball himself, Hamish Watson, demonstrates the value of staying up in the contact and just bouncing off as many defenders as possible.
NB only includes players with a minimum of 200 minutes played in the Townsend era