The Leicester Tigers are one of the most successful clubs in world rugby, having been crowned English Champions ten times and European Champions twice.
Their performance analyst Simon Barbour is one of the best in the business, and he invited us to spend an afternoon with his team to learn about their use of Sportscode and video analysis.
On arrival at the Tigers training ground the players are out on the field and Barbour is overseeing an impressive setup. An assistant analyst handles both filming and coding on a scaffold tower, and a second camera hoisted on a Hi-pod behind the goalposts. The footage from this is also being coded on Sportscode from monitors inside the kitmans hut.
Barbour is clearly passionate about the role performance analysis plays at Leicester.
“Video analysis is so important to the club because it underpins all of the preparation for the week,” said Barbour.“The knowledge you get from the analysis of training, the opposition, and our games is vital to the meetings we have to prepare for the following week.”
Sportscode is Hudl’s elite platform that allows teams to create bespoke coding windows, something Barbour insists is critical to their operation.“We need the coding panel to be adaptable so we can get our own coaching language in so we can analyse training in our own vocabulary.
“The integration with other systems is also fantastic because it allows us to look at the data from GPS through our timeline, it allows us to use data we get from Opta, it allows us to manipulate our own coding so we can get a full spectrum view.”
The breadth and depth of analysis in their training environment is impressive, but it’s nothing compared to game day.“The setup on match day will be myself and two other analysts — we actually get some help from the sports science guy as well who has some expertise in adding extra labels for us,” said Barbour.“The beauty of having the Elite Review and Elite licences means that we can get all the information from multiple different coders at one time and that can be shared across different captures.
“We get a close and a wide feed from the broadcaster during the game with embedded audio and then we capture another two angles in the [broadcast] trucks as well. We sync them all together with what we’ve coded during the game and that package will be available for the coaches after the final whistle. Having multiple coders gives us the ability to have more detailed stats on certain areas that you wouldn’t be able to code on your own.”
During the game, the coaching staff in the stands use the timeline share to review what’s just happened.“ They have live statistics on an output window that gives them the measures that they want to know during the game,” said Barbour.“ We have embedded audio through HD-SDI capture; we can hear not only what the referee is saying to our players but what the players are saying to one another.
“Coaches may ask for packages to be put together which will be shown at half time and typically that will involve areas around set piece, lineout and scrum. We have 15 minutes at half time to get the key messages across.”
Leicester doesn’t only analyse their own performance, they use Sportscode to scout their opponents.“We’ll analyse the opposition by taking their last four or five most relevant games and then we’ll use our own code windows to input the labels that reflect our own coaching language so we can put together stats that are going to be able to aid the coaches message.
“We’ll then provide succinct packages of information that the coaches take away, and I’ll work one-on-one with the coaches to help them put together their presentations. We’ll think about the format of the meetings, there will be a breakdown of who is going to say what and in what meeting, and there will be overriding messages that the head coach will want delivered in those meetings.”
With all this data and analysis available, Barbour demonstrates how Hudl’s tools allow the key messages to be delivered in the best way.
“The benefits of sharing video to players are that they can’t spend too long in the training environment,” he said.“ They need their own downtime but at the same time they need to be able to go onto their phone, tablet or their computer and get the information they need. Be it their learning around their roles, set pieces or in defence, or feedback on their own performance in training.
“We use various methods to make sure players engage with video. When they’re in the training environment the iMac’s are all synced up to the server (in a dedicated video analysis suite) and they’re able to get on there and go to the packages. Outside of that, from home with Hudl they can go to their app and get the information that’s shared with them. Then they can add comments and respond to the coaches messages. We get a report from Hudl about who’s used it and when they’ve used it.
“We’re able to accommodate a variety of different learning styles. Some players prefer to learn on their own, some prefer one-to-one work with coaches and some prefer group discussions so having the flexibility that the programme delivers is absolutely essential.”
The Tigers’ also use Sportscode and Hudl throughout their academy, both to aid player development, but to also ensure familiarity when young players step up into the first team environment.
“It’s important that everyone is able to use the same platform because at any time a player can drop out of the side, so if an academy player gets the opportunity they need to be able to slot straight in and learn the information in the same way that a senior player would.”
Seeing Leicester’s holistic approach to analysis at the highest levels of rugby is a guiding light for others around the globe. It’s that commitment to video that has allowed the Tigers to remain at the upper echelons of the premiership for the better part of the last decade.