Behind the Scenes with IBM TryTracker

The IBM TryTracker helps players, pundits and punters get a better understanding of England Rugby’s performance. This second-screen experience is available on the England rugby website and aims to engage fans, whether they are new to rugby or are experienced. Insights generated by IBM TryTracker enhance conversations about the game, before, during and after.

Ross CooperThe aim of this article is to provide some insight into what goes on “behind the scenes” during the build-up and running of IBM TryTracker, as well as giving an overview of its purpose and functionality. As a Data Scientist within IBM’s Advanced Analytics practice I am part of the team which created IBM TryTracker and continue to provide support over the England Internationals.

What does the IBM TryTracker show?

IBM TryTracker has 3 main features: Keys to the Game, Momentum, and Player Influence.

The Keys to the Game tell us which three things a team needs to do well, in order to stand a better chance of winning. Examples include:

Momentum Graph
The momentum graph
  • Make at least 5 line breaks
  • Make 6 meters per carry
  • Make 92% of tackles


The keys are calculated from historical data spanning back eight years, looking at head-to-head information and also when a team has played other teams of a similar style to their opponent. They are specifically generated for each match so will vary with opposition playing styles.

Momentum helps you understand which way the game is going i.e. does England or France have the momentum of play at any one time. Momentum is calculated by looking at the events that have occurred on the pitch for each team in the last 10 minutes.

Player Influence tells us who is having the most impact on the game – like a player of the match league table during the game. It examines how well a player is doing their particular job on the pitch.

Player Stats on TryTracker
Player influence

What’s the tech behind it all?

The statistical number crunching is hosted on IBM Softlayer and runs in SPSS Modeler, where the data is manipulated to provide the insights as required. On match days, our data supplier OPTA, a sports data company, employs analysts to watch the match and record every detail in real-time – from every pass and tackle, to every metre run. This data is fed into the live SPSS stream, operated by IBM Data Scientists. We normally have two Data Scientists involved, running the live and back-up streams. These are run continuously throughout the game, updating the output statistics. We ensure that the models are running smoothly and displaying results as expected. The outputs are passed through to the England Rugby website where they’re displayed in a set of appealing visualisations.

Keys to the Game
Keys to the Match

Player milestones are tracked throughout the game, such that if a record or momentous moment occurs, this can be communicated out to the fans via social media. A milestone occurs if a player reaches a prominent number of tackles/passes/metres gained/points, 100 tackles for example. The all-time leader board is also tracked (since February 2007), alerting the public if a player advances up the table, for example Tom Wood moving to 3rd in all time tackles.

The main aim for IBM TryTracker is to increase fan engagement, drawing more people into the sport of Rugby. With the significant facts displayed in an easily digestible form, visitors to the site can quickly gain a view of how the game is progressing. This further enhances the viewer’s experience, especially when combined with watching the match on TV and via other mediums. I personally use IBM TryTracker to provide further insight into the match I am watching, allowing me to identify areas that England need to focus on to win the game. I also like to look back at it as a reflective tool to re-live the moments.


For more on IBM, Rugby and the technology behind IBM TryTracker:

Visit IBM Marketplace,

See the IBM TryTracker’s last match stats.

Read the case study.