Behind the scenes… England Rugby Training session

What is your role at IBM?

I am a Technology Consultant on the Consulting by Degrees graduate programme within GBS. I started at IBM in October 2017 so I’ve only been at IBM for about 4 months. I’m on my first project at the moment.

How did you get into rugby?

I’ve never actually played rugby because, unsurprisingly, being tackled with the full weight and force of another human being doesn’t appeal to me! But I’ve always loved rugby having grown up watching it. I’ve been lucky enough to spend my younger years heading to Twickenham to watch the Autumn Internationals, Premiership matches and occasionally the 6 Nations. I now play Touch rugby – as the name suggests, a contact-less version of the game!

What do you like about rugby?

As a sportswoman, I love the passion that each player shows on the field. I love the teamwork and the fact that each player supports one another, always. I love the skill involved, like watching a great offload from a tackle. I love the footwork and the speed when someone breaks through the defensive line and takes off. I admire each and every player as they go through impacts similar to a car crash each match. Mostly, I love that the ball never fails to make a mockery of any player at any standard when it bounces away at some unpredicted angle – it’s not just me!

How did you get involved in the rugby aspect of IBM?

I’ve always loved sport and it’s always been a huge part of my life, so much so that I have a degree in Sports and Exercise Science. So, I wanted to get involved in the amazing sports partnerships that IBM have. I was fortunate enough to attend the IBM Analytics Vision event in November to listen to Sir Clive Woodward speak about the parallel concepts between business and sport. Since then, I’ve been involved with the Workforce Enablement team to help out with their internal rugby-related competitions and was lucky enough to be given a ticket to watch the England Rugby squad train at Twickenham on Friday 16th February.

What was the day like?

Although I am lucky enough to attend Twickenham fairly regularly, and was actually at Twickenham the Saturday before to watch England beat Wales (ha!), I’ve never watched the team train before.

Upon our arrival, the team were already warming up on the pitch. Having never been quite so close to the players before, I had never realised their full size. They. Are. Huge! The towering forwards, Courtney Lawes at 6”6 and Maro Itoje at 6”4 for example, weighing in at about 115kg each (that’s 18 stone), make the backs look tiny!

The training started with some explosive weight lifting exercises, which I believed to form the majority of the training session, but apparently was only part of the warm up, despite lifting over twice my body weight! The main session was then conditioned game play overseen by Eddie Jones and a host of other coaches.

The day was topped off with a surprise appearance from Prince Harry (sadly no, Megan was not there as well!), and the players were great and hung around afterwards to take photos.

Big thanks to IBM, and the Workforce Enablement team specifically, for providing this one of a kind experience!


What do you think IBM TryTracker has done to help enhance the match experience for fans?

Having studied sports science at university, I have an appreciation for the analytical side of sport. Whereas before I would have been perfectly content discussing who I thought looked best on the field, I now look more at the stats. I like to quantify performance. And that’s why I find IBM TryTracker so brilliant. During and after each match I can go straight to the IBM TryTracker website and check the three analytics dashboards to find out the match “momentum”, “key targets”, and “key influencers”, all important indicators of a team’s eventual success. I know statistically what performance indicators are the benchmark for the next match. I can see who made the most metres, who made the most tackles, who beat the most defenders.

But it’s not just for sports scientists. IBM TryTracker has seriously changed the way a lot of people watch the sport. Instead of arguing in the pub about who you think the best player is, you now have the facts and figures to back it up! It’s made the sport, and the players, quantifiable, in ways other than the match outcome and score. IBM TryTracker enables viewers to be so much more involved and engaged in the sport. It adds an extra layer to watching rugby matches as fans are much more aware of what key factors they are looking for throughout the game. Alongside the inclusion of ref-cams to view play from the ref’s perspective and ref-mics to hear the conversations between the referees, touch judges and the TMO (television match official), IBM TryTracker provides a significant contribution to the ever-increasing accessibility of the sport.

What do you think is the most important thing about the IBM TryTracker?

The analytics are obviously a fundamental part of IBM TryTracker. IBM TryTracker combines historical data with live match statistics to make the data meaningful and to offer valuable insight. The fact that it does this in real-time is another important aspect. Fans can keep up to date throughout the match, as well as after. But aside from the predictive analytics, I think the user interface is a crucial part of what makes IBM TryTracker so popular. The tool is clear and simple, and provides easily consumable visualisations of the key metrics.

What do you like most about IBM TryTracker?

I love the interlock between sport and technology. The platform uses IBM SPSS technology to analyse and process the data. This is analytical software that was originally designed for business use, and has been applied in a sporting context. I think the application of this cutting-edge analytics engine to provide valuable insight into a rugby team’s performance, is fascinating.