Interview with Simon Kavanagh – Head Performance Analyst with Connacht Rugby

Connacht Rugby

Connacht steam-rolled Brive at the Sportsground on Saturday last with Matt Healy grabbing four tries in front of five thousand – everything went like clockwork, but well oiled machines don’t happen by accident!

Rugby Union is a complex game when played at the elite level.  The professional game with its intensity, where games can be won and lost in an instant, the quest for competitive advantage is a daily routine.

What most of us see as fans on the terraces is the hell for leather action when the whistle blows and combat begins in the Guinness Pro 14, European Champions Cup or the RBS Six Nations; however, iceberg like,  the game day preparation is a monumental effort involving the players, coaches and entire backroom team and largely goes unnoticed.

The role of the analyst has become pivotal. Their influence is spread across practice, opposition assessment and ‘live analysis ‘on game day. Simon Kavanagh, Connacht’s Head Performance Analyst gave us a glimpse of the hectic schedule that governs the working life in professional rugby.

Simon Kavanagh - Head Analyst with Connacht Rugby

Simon Kavanagh – Head Performance Analyst with Connacht Rugby

At any given time Simon is working two weeks ahead as Connacht plot their strategies – opposition formations, attacking points and possible defensive weaknesses. So where is it that the analysis fits into the whole picture? The complexities of modern day Rugby can be boiled down defence, attack and the transitions between the two – a high speed, high impact chess game, if you like.

In a very short period of time the discipline of Performance Analysis has become de rigueur in professional sport and perhaps rugby has embraced it more efficiently than most. Simon was at the forefront of that revolution in his role as ‘technical guru’ with Avenir Sports, in Galway. All the elite sporting organisations gained their initial training under his tutelage, so it’s safe to say that he has grown up with and helped shape the best practice using the developing technology.

What has the advent of ‘live analysis’ meant to match day? The best laid plans will sometimes go awry. In the days when live footage was not available and the technology to quickly analyse what was happening, the coaches relied on gut feel and what they thought they saw. Today Simon and all analysts alike will provide actual facts, objective real time ‘what happened’ footage to the coaches, enabling the coaching staff to change the course of the game, as it unfolds.

On the training ground the use of video footage informs the players and coaches alike as game day routines are worked out. The individual units, back and forwards, can work in isolation before coming together for a rugby session combining all the elements and fine-tuning the transitions.

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About the Author

Pete Kelly
Pete Kelly has an eclectic interest in all sports and already writes regularly for Extra Time (www.extratime.ie), predominantly about Galway United F.C. but he has been known to write on a broad spectrum of sports. He is the media guy for the Galway Cup, producing the video blogs during the tournament with Avenir Sports. He has coached since the 1970’s, winning an All-Ireland Schools title with St. Enda’s and managing and/or coaching countless Salthill Devon Football Club teams in addition to Galway League and Connacht teams. Away from the field, Pete is a communications professional with his own business, 15 Eleven Communications, developing websites and devising digital marketing strategies, writing and teaching.