The last time Wasps faced Sale sharks, we came away with only a losing bonus point for our troubles, but this weekend we face them at home, and it looks like it may be a different result. Wasps are clear favourites after an amazing run of form in both the Aviva Premiership and the European Champions Cup. I thought it might be interesting to look at the statistics from both teams last games, and see if there was anything that might help us predict the result this weekend when Sale Sharks play Wasps at the Ricoh Arena.
Firstly lets look at attacking play.
Wasps made 488 metres in total when the played Leicester Tigers, but Sale Sharks only managed 322 metres when playing Northampton Saints. Interestingly three Wasps players made more than 70m (Wade, Halai, and C Piutau) while only one Sale Sharks player managed the same, Danny Cipriani. So when it comes to making metres Wasps have a clear advantage, but that could just reflect the fact that the style of play more often than not involves running the ball from deep instead of kicking.
Wasps managed 125 carries, with Smith, Jones, Wade, and Miller all making it into double figures, while Sale Sharks made 84 carries. Ioane, Addison, and Arscott made it to double figures. Though again this stat may simply reflect the style of play rather than success with the ball in hand.
To see how effective the teams were we need to look at some different statistics.
Wasps managed 10 clean breaks, with Sale only 1 behind with 9, however Sale only beat 11 defenders, while Wasps beat 26 defenders. This is a much more interesting statistic as it shows that Wasps are not only running the ball a lot, but are successfully managing to get past the defence with the ball in hand. The stats for offloads and passes made are both pretty similar, so it would seem that defenders beaten is the only significant figure we can look at that might have any bearing on the game.
However it isn’t all about attack (so I am told, as a Wasps fan it really is), and so lets look at defence. Wasps made 104 tackles, and missed 14, while Sale Sharks made 127 and missed 18. I am sure both sets of coaches would consider the number of missed tackles to be far too high (and it’s hard to disagree), Wasps did miss marginally fewer (11% as opposed to 12.5%) but missing more than 1 in 10 is going to be an issue for both teams.
The one last statistic that is of note is the number of turnovers. Wasps made 5 against Tigers, while Sharks failed to make a single turnover against Saints. Part of that is down to George Smith, but he only made 1 of the 5, so perhaps his magic is rubbing off on the others.
I haven’t looked at the set piece, simply because Wasps have shown themselves very able to play the game plan they do best whether they are dominating, or being driven backwards at the scrum. Though it is worth bearing in mind that Sale have a number of players who can and do steal lineouts.
Who is going to win? My money would be on Wasps. If it is dry I would suggest there will be two converted tries between the teams, if wet it may come down to the respective boots of Gopperth and Cipriani, and on current form Gopperth is going to win that contest.