The phrase ‘Lies, damned lies and statistics’ is alternately attributed to either Disraeli or Mark Twain depending on which Google site you go to. It is one of the most used quotes in the English language (most frequently by politicians to explain a recent unfavourable poll)
There is a good reason it is popular however, – statistics can be extremely misleading.
Take the last twelve months in the rugby calendar for instance – in that time New Zealand have won 12 games (all in 2013) and lost just one – November 2012.
In the same period England have played 10 games and also lost just the one.
You’d start to think that maybe the game on Saturday is a clash of champions.
You’d be wrong!
Let’s just look at England’s record.
This time last year – after a poor performance against the Wallabies, England took on the All Blacks – to everyone’s surprise (and my delight) they suddenly came to life and ran out convincing 38 – 21 winners. They even survived an All Black comeback to within one point having led 15 – 0 in the first quarter.
So far so good.
The 6 Nations was a different story – some good, some poor, some lucky led to a Grand Slam opportunity in Cardiff.
The 30 – 3 horror show brought the team back to earth and destroyed a number of players’ hopes of a seat on the plane to Australia – at the same time vaulting many of the opposition onto those coveted places.
Still England were 5 for 6 – maybe it was a blip (as many pundits suggested).
You can forget the two wins in Argentina – as good as it was to see some new faces play well – it was still our seconds v their thirds. But in the record books it moved us up to a 7 out of 8 win ratio.
The (very) unsatisfactory performances over the last two weekends against the Wallabies and the Pumas accounts for the current record of 9 out of 10 wins that is being trumpeted from Twickenham.
Talk now of taking over the number 2 spot from South Africa seems fanciful in the extreme based on what we see on the field. It does very little to dispell the rest of the world’s view that England are arrogant.
I’m not going to run through the All Blacks’ record this year – they are unbeaten in 2013 – and they’ve faced some pretty good opposition. There is talk of them maybe being the best ABs ever – and that’s getting increasingly hard to argue with. If there has been a blip for one team it was surely at Twickenham last year.
On paper 9/10 looks fairly comparable to 12/13 – even 12/12 but Saturday isn’t being played on sheets of statisticians A4. It may be at Twickenham but the ground is no fortress – not yet anyway.
If I was to try and pick my best XV from all those who are likely to be on the turf at 2.30 pm I’d be hard pressed to find a place for one in a white shirt.
Maybe, just maybe Alex Corbisiero, Dylan Hartley and Courtenay Lawes might have a shout – but not one would be a certainty. Tom Wood would get in most back rows – but not the ABs. As good as Mike Brown continues to be – he’s still behind Israel Dagg. Everyone else – forget it.
Later this week I’ll select ‘my’ team to take on the best side on the planet – it won’t be the same as Stuart Lancaster’s – my selections never are!
I’ll be praying for a repeat of last year but it will just be a wing (hopefully Yarde and Wade) and a prayer.
The All Blacks will want revenge and it will be tough to deny them – sadly I can’t see it myself.
But I’ll be on the sofa with my fingers crossed (not my drinking hand obviously) hoping for another miracle and the chance to believe and dream the seemingly impossible (2015) dream.