Computer experts who successfully forecast the outcome of the majority of World Cup matches have pored over the data to try to predict exactly what will happen in the Six Nations… and they reckon Warren Gatland’s Wales will have to make do with a fourth-placed finish.
The London-based statistical analysts reckon Ireland, Wales’ first opponents in Dublin this weekend, will emerge triumphant and make it three titles on the trot under their own Kiwi boss Joe Schmidt.
But the mathematicians reckon the Irish will only seal it on points difference after another final day super Saturday, with Eddie Jones’ Grand Slam-chasing England edged out by narrowly losing to France in the very last match.
The predictions are made as a result of exhaustive research carried out on behalf of London-based insurers QBE.
The statisticians have used a complex mathematical formula to try to predict the exact score of every match in the 2016 tournament, which is being widely viewed as one of the most open for years.
Ireland celebrate after the 2015 Six Nations title at end of a super Saturday eight hours of drama
The scientists inputted a wide range of rugby variables, including the number of tries, kicks and conversions scored by each team over the 15-year period of the Six Nations, the experience of the captains, plus home and away advantage.
Their computer model simulated the tournament 10, 000 times to produce outcomes from 150, 000 games, before settling upon an average for each of this year’s games.
Normally, the experts apply scientific tools to sectors such as transport, construction, financial services, as well as multinational corporations who need advance notice of the impact floods may have.
However, they have also begun turning their hand to rugby and in the autumn say their World Cup success rate was 83 per cent. Amongst the results they forecast back then were:
South Africa 23 Wales 20 (actual score 23-19)
France 33 Italy 14 (actual score 32-10)
Ireland 40 Romania 8 (actual score 44-10)
Scotland 37 USA 12 (actual score 39-6).
Fourie Du Preez crosses for the decisive try as South Africa beat Wales. The scientists were just one point out with their prediction
The bookmakers have pretty much written off Ireland’s chances of success, but the scientists reckon Schmidt’s men will get off to a flier with a 32-21 victory over Wales.
They forecast Sam Warburton and his team will bounce back with narrow Principality Stadium victories over Scotland (26-21) and France (23-19), before the big one… a return to Twickenham to take on World Cup foe England.
This time, reckon the computer gurus, Wales will fall short with Eddie Jones’ new-look England tipped to win 26-20.
They reckon Wales will run in the tries in the final match, though, triumphing 39-12 over Italy.
According to the mathematicians, England will be on for the Grand Slam right up until the final Saturday… but will then lose by a single point away to France.
That, they predict, will enable Ireland to pinch the title on points difference and lead to Rory Best lifting the trophy in scenes reminiscent of last year.
The Irish, of course, celebrated the title on points difference ahead of England after thumping Scotland in the middle match on super Saturday and seeing the Red Rose just fail to do enough to pip them when they met France a couple of hours after.
This year’s predicted scenario would leave Wales on six points, but behind the French on points difference.
However, before Welsh fans become too despondent, it should be pointed out that the analysts don’t always get it right. They predicted England would beat Gatland’s side in the World Cup… and we know what happened at Twickenham!
A beaming Warren Gatland celebrates after watching his Wales side beat England at the World Cup
Matthew Crane, of QBE Business Insurance, said: “Predictive analytics is either a dark art or a science, depending who you talk to. Rugby teams are not that different from businesses as they have to understand the risks and prepare for the unexpected.
“As we saw in last year’s World Cup there is never a sure outcome. England’s inability to escape their group ultimately came down to a chance decision, either in the shape of Chris Robshaw’s call not to take the last minute penalty kick or Dan Biggar’s 74th minute shot for Wales from the halfway line.
Play Fantasy Rugby: Have a go at our great game
“The Rugby Predictor is a bit fun that uses just one of the many tools of analysis our experts would combine in reality. On a daily basis QBE applies science like that behind this model to different sectors such as transport, construction and financial services. These tools improve thousands of businesses by helping to recognise perils and mitigate against potential losses.”
But he did concede: “The rugby formula predicted a much better World Cup for England and did not foresee Japan beating South Africa, which demonstrates the unpredictability of sport.
Japan celebrate their unexpected World Cup victory over South Africa
“The QBE Rugby Predictor did not expect Wales to beat England in the World Cup – so it is still everything to play for! The Welsh team’s courageous efforts during the World Cup, despite a depleted squad and group stage injuries, demonstrated that this is not a team to be easily written off.”
THE PREDICTED RESULTS:
France 33 Italy 12
Scotland 13 England 21
Ireland 32 Wales 21
France 20 Ireland 22
Wales 26 Scotland 21
Italy 13 England 30
Wales 23 France 19
Italy 15 Scotland 30
England 25 Ireland 21