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Players are fitter, faster and way more skilful.
Statistics show the ball is in play for much longer.
At the first World Cup in 1987, the ball was in play for about 26 minutes per game. During last year’s tournament, the ball was in play for more than 36 minutes. It was actually in play more in 2011 — at more than 39 minutes.
There was more kicking at the 2019 tournament compared to the two previous tournaments.
The number of stoppages dropped from 123 to 63 as players have become more skilful and referees play advantage more.
That has led to longer durations in play which test fitness.
There are 60% fewer scrums and 56% fewer lineouts.
In the 20 years until 2015, there was an increase of 90% in rucks and mauls as the game has become centred around the breakdown.
That has led to an increase in penalties at the breakdown — 42% of all penalties. Offside penalties have dropped 33% to 19% although many would say referees could blow a lot more offside penalties.
Teams no longer kick as often as they used to, going from 69 a game in 1991 to 44 in 2019.
Breakdown penalties are evenly split among players not releasing the ball, players off their feet and ruck-side entry — in all, 21% of the total penalties. The most common breakdown penalty is not rolling away at 29%.
The trend is for teams to kick for touch rather than goal when a penalty is awarded.
When outside the 22m line, teams will kick for touch 35% of the time from penalties, up from 5% in 1995. Kicking the penalty is preferred 58% of the time but this is down from 80% in 1995.
Inside the 22m zone, penalties result in a kick for goal only half the time. The rest of the time a scrum is called or the ball kicked for a lineout.