Ever wondered what the high-stakes world of rugby can teach us? The answer is: a lot more than you might think. From decision-making to the art of strategy, rugby is a masterclass in the skills you need to succeed in the boardroom. That’s why we’ve got an exclusive interview with Emmanuel Peyrezabes, Head of Athletic Performance in the rugby world. Trust us, this is one conversation you don’t want to miss —

Can you please introduce yourself and share your background as a Rugby performance analyst?
I’m Emmanuel Peyrezabes, a Rugby Performance Analyst with Rugby Nederland. My role involves using data to optimize training strategies and ultimately improve on-field performance.

How did you get involved in the field of Rugby performance analysis?
I’ve always had a passion for rugby and analytics. The opportunity to combine both was an irresistible proposition. Over the years, I’ve sharpened my skills to help rugby teams elevate their gameplay using data-driven insights.

What does performance analysis entail in the context of Rugby?
In Rugby, performance analysis allows us to set benchmarks and tailor training sessions to mimic game-day intensity. We focus on avoiding player overload while still preparing them for what they’ll face during the game. It’s a constant cycle of analysis, training, feedback, and preparation for the next game.

How do you collect and analyze data, and what kind of insights can be gained?
We use GPS devices worn by players during games and training. These devices help us monitor key metrics, such as the intensity of sprints or collisions. This data then forms the basis for our reports, which are scrutinized to develop player-specific and team-oriented strategies.

Impact on Rugby Performance

Can you share examples of how performance analysis, even without real-time data, has contributed to improvements in Rugby teams and players?
Certainly. One area where performance analysis makes a tangible difference is in injury prevention. If we notice a player is lagging in sprints during practice relative to what’s expected in actual games, we adjust their training regimen to mitigate the risk of injury.
Live coding is another strategy we use, though not necessarily in real-time. By reviewing plays post-match, we can identify patterns and adapt strategies for future games. It’s a bit like reviewing production metrics in a factory setting to adjust workflow for better efficiency.
But let me share a specific, game-changing example. We observed that young players tend to kick the ball during restarts. Through tactical analysis, we discovered that our opponents often struggle to maintain solid defense after 8 to 10 phases of play. So, we focused our training on sustaining plays beyond 10 phases. This was a strategic choice based on pattern recognition rather than real-time data, and it played a key role in securing a win.
The point here is that performance analysis has a direct, meaningful impact on game outcomes, even when it’s based on observations and patterns rather than real-time data.

What are some key metrics and statistics that Rugby teams typically focus on?
Teams often focus on metrics like line-outs won, possession percentages, and player-specific metrics like meters carried per possession. These metrics offer a snapshot of on-field activities and help inform strategic decisions.

Data-Driven Strategies

How do Rugby coaches use these insights to develop strategies for matches?
Data is a powerful tool for coaches. They use it to focus on elements like ball-handling skills or tackling techniques depending on what the software shows and what they perceive as essential for the upcoming opposition.

Any specific examples where data analysis influenced a game plan?
Absolutely. In one case, our data indicated that a player was at risk for injury based on their metrics. The coach had to decide whether to trust the data or his gut. He chose the latter, and the player ended up being a game-changer, confirming that while data is powerful, human intuition still has a place in the sport.

Player Development

In what ways does performance analysis support individual player development?
It provides players with clear benchmarks for performance at the international level. For instance, if a player needs to improve their sprint distance, a physical plan is developed alongside a rugby plan to optimize their performance.

How do coaches use this data to help players reach their full potential?
We use international benchmarks as a guide. By comparing the measured result with the benchmark, we can identify areas for improvement and set realistic but challenging targets for players.

Technology and Tools

What technologies and tools are commonly used?
We use specialized software for different aspects like strength and conditioning, daily questionnaires, and GPS metrics. The software can be customized to meet the specific needs of coaches and players alike.


Performance analysis in rugby is more than just numbers; they’re tools that when used judiciously, can bring about revolutionary changes in strategies, player development, and overall team performance. While data provides a robust foundation, the human element remains invaluable, making the field of rugby performance analysis both an art and a science.

The sharing of data and establishing a unified language among the team’s staff is essential for maximizing the impact of analytical findings. Collaborative efforts are vital to effectively applying these insights to enhance on-field performance.

Emmanuel Peyrezabes’ insights underline the critical role of Athletic Performance in modern rugby, demonstrating how a blend of technology and human intuition can push the boundaries of what’s achievable on the field.