Is this the reason Ireland have become such a formidable force?

Ireland have established themselves as one of the best teams in the world under head coach Andy Farrell.

Since his appointment in 2019, the Englishman has overseen a first-ever series victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand and a dominant Six Nations Grand Slam last year, which they look certain to defend.

Read more: How to watch the Six Nations

Such has been their recent form that Ireland ascended to the top of the world rankings in 2023, although at the time of writing they sit second behind world champions South Africa.

They have become a team that is incredibly hard to beat and one which can find a route to victory even when not at their best. Even if their attack is not firing on all cylinders, the Irish players are so comfortable with the ball that their relentless patience and accuracy is often enough to wear opponents down.

Perhaps even more vital to their success is the physicality Ireland bring to the table. Rarely is a backwards step taken or a tackle missed, while they have the fitness to maintain such an effort for a full 80 minutes.

But is this the stat that is key to their success? Oval have gathered some data based on the first three rounds of the 2024 Six Nations and it shows just how efficient Ireland are at the breakdown.

In convincing wins over France, Italy and Wales, Ireland have entered 75 rucks as the defensive team – the joint-second highest alongside Italy and behind only Wales with 85 – and have disrupted opposition ball on 30 occasions.

Related: Tompkins and North dropped for Wales’ game against France

That’s a conversion rate of a whopping 40%, which has them clearly out in front from Wales with 28.2%. Behind Wales come France and England in third and fourth respectively, while Italy and Scotland prop up the table in this category.

Beating a unit like Ireland is hard enough, but without quick ball it becomes nigh-on impossible. That’s the task that awaits England this week and Scotland next.

Ireland’s defensive efficiency

Here’s a closer look at the data set:

  • Ireland: 40% (30/75)
  • Wales: 28.2% (24/85)
  • France: 22% (13/59)
  • England: 21.4% (12/56)
  • Italy: 21.3% (14/75)
  • Scotland: 18.2% (8/44)

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