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International innovation: How France and Argentina solved their most glaring issues from 2019 ahead of another World Cup

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26th August, 2022

After the mid-year internationals, I decided to focus my attention on the game from a different point of view.

For years, I’ve thought that the game could be presented under a dichotomous vision. Readings such as Northern Hemisphere vs Southern Hemisphere or Saxon Teams vs Latin Teams configured for me an ecosystem whose structure worked based on a polarization of roles, thus reissuing the school classification of predators and prey. I

think it is necessary to overcome this dichotomy to replace it with a more constructive or operational one, such as innovative teams vs. non-innovative Teams.

In principle, we could classify innovative teams as those that seek to develop a game platform that is sustainable over time, capable of standing on its own and affecting the activity of the ecosystem in which it is developed.
From this point of view, the greatest working capital of a team comes from its greater or lesser predisposition to innovate, and requires adapting to the complexity of the environment and combining elements of the game that already exist in a different or original way, thus obtaining greater efficiency, even by way of surprise.

Teams do not innovate or stop innovating overnight, but do so gradually, leaving behind an area of intense instability. This is the current situation in France, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, for example.

A concept extrapolated from biology called ´Coevolution´ could better explain this zone of instabilities as a field of interactions or direct pressures of the competitors among themselves that affect the process of improvement of the game.

Let’s look for example at this innovations put into play by France since 2019 and we can see that there have been two interesting movements in the team’s capabilities; they are related to a greater defensive effectiveness and an improvement in the scored/received tries ratio.

The increase in defensive activity produced by the arrival of Shaun Edwards made it possible to extend this restructuring to the disciplinary side, but also to the attack, which allowed France to lead its Grand Slam in Six Nations Rugby in 2022.


The table below shows the increasing metrics of France which, since 2019 and based on defensive efficiency, have managed to refresh the attack based on accuracy and speed.

The innovations made by Argentina, on the other hand, start from the basis of the most urgent problems that it needs to solve; those have to do with the high participation of players residing abroad, particularly in Europe. Under these conditions the Argentine coaches, with only three players based in the country, face a reality exactly opposite to those of Australia or New Zealand.

This context puts negative pressure on cohesion levels and conspires against the adjustment of game variables. But at the same time it is one of the greatest strengths of Los Pumas, and they have made progress despite the unfavorable logistical conditions in which they work.

The main innovation of Los Pumas began with the Jaguares in Super Rugby, and consisted of promoting unstructured play. Along this path they managed to surprise the Wallabies in TRC 2022 with three tries originating from turnovers won.

Another innovation is the relaunch of their kicking game. Table 2 shows that Argentina’s kicked possession has grown since 2019 to stabilise, going from the execution of defensive kicks to kicks that are contestable or destined for territorial gain.


The path to the 2023 Rugby World Cup will show how deep the innovations proposed by Argentina and France are, and how much they will influence the ecosystem that currently contains them.