in Toulouse, the bet of the data in the service of the game – Release

Stade Toulouse faces Union Bordeaux-Bègles, this Saturday in Lille, in the semi-final of the Top 14. The recent European champion is aiming for a new final in an already historic season where data will have played a key role in the preparation Toulouse.

It is often a question of figures with the Toulouse Stadium. They return tirelessly at the end of each season, or almost, swollen with a new unit, witness to a trophy cabinet that is filled. The 2020-2021 exercise is no exception: against Bordeaux-Bègles, Saturday at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve-d’Ascq (North, kick-off at 8:45 p.m.), the Haut-Garonnais club will play his sixteenth semi-final of the French championship in twenty years. A new step in his quest for a twenty-first shield from Brennus, less than a month after winning a fifth European crown on the Twickenham lawn … To explain the performance of the most successful club in France, Release looked at the interest developed by Stade Toulouse for another type of figure: “data”.

“The collection and analysis of data have a very important role in our beautiful season made yet trying by the Covid-19. The daily tracking of the players’ effort volumes allows us to control our preparation very precisely and prevent the risk of injury ”, confides Jean Bouilhou, former player of the Red and Black now converted into the staff of Ugo Mola as forward coach. A methodology put in place by Saad Drissi, thinking head of the stadium’s data unit. The training physical trainer, who arrived during the 2007-2008 season, quickly took control of a team specializing in data analysis. He embodies the club’s sporting model centered on the alliance of science and technology.

Catalog of exercises

“My role is to identify the correlations between physiological and technical parameters to determine the best training program to adopt according to the player, the post group and the needs of the technical and medical staff”, he details. Under his impetus, the club was one of the first in France to equip itself with GPS at the turn of the 2010s. Placed between the shoulder blades in jerseys, the cases ensure rigorous monitoring of the effort made by targeting indicators accurate. “For the forwards, we are particularly interested in the number of collisions that a player makes in a match or in the total of his accelerations, more than the maximum speed which concerns more three-quarters, to measure his repetition capacity. effort “, underlines Jean Bouilhou.

For each indicator, the data unit sets up specialized exercises gathered in a catalog where the staff only has to draw according to the needs of their sessions. “To work on the volume of the race, for example, he offers us a selection of workshops in small numbers on large grounds, details the old third wing line. It is important to have a data cell capable of selecting precise data from the mass to respond to our performance model and our way of thinking about rugby. ” The stake is there: to put the figures at the service of a game identity.


The fingerboard sector is an example of the possibilities in this area. “Is a good touch to have 90% success or to score 40 trials per season on this phase ? Depending on the performance indicator chosen, reference keys are recorded so that an algorithm identifies the influential parameters to be favored ”, explains Jean Bouilhou. The movement is only in its infancy, but reflects the reflections of the club to optimize its performance thanks to the data. “A club like Toulouse is a driving force. He perfects himself by taking advantage of his very dynamic local basin. He is constantly inspired by Airbus analysts and works with sports science research teams ”, indicates Jérémy Cheradame, data scientist of the French Rugby Federation (FFR).

The Toulouse club was also the first to get involved in the project to harmonize data collection systems initiated by the FFR and to encourage all French clubs to join it. An unprecedented cooperative effort in the world of rugby. It should facilitate exchanges between the teams and allow France to catch up with some of its lag behind English-speaking clubs, which are more advanced in the culture of data. With a horizon: the 2023 World Cup organized in France. “This common project should help advance the general level of French rugby. Everyone is a winner in the operation ”, believes Julien Piscione, research and development manager at the FFR.

But to cross this new level, the clubs will nevertheless have to enrich their cells with statisticians, notes Gaël Guilhem, head of the Sport, research and performance laboratory at Insep. A new relationship to sport. “The approach of the clubs is still relatively descriptive. We are far from systematic models, but they accumulate knowledge ; it’s promising for the future. ”

Source: Libération by

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