The World Rugby official match statistics grew from an initial 248 tackles up to 253 in the end, with Wales lock Will Rowlands topping the individual count with 27. The question on everyone’s lips was ‘had any team ever completed that many tackles and gone on to win a game’?
Well, the answer is yes – Wales! If you go back to the Six Nations in 2015 you will find Sam Warburton’s team beat Ireland 23-16 in Cardiff after making a then tournament record 250 tackles. Top of the tackle count that day was another Wales second row, Luke Charteris.
Back in Bordeaux, it was only the sixth time in World Cup history a team had completed 200 tackles in a match, and comfortably beat the previous record of 218 by Georgia against Australia in 2019. While Rowlands led the charge, prop Gareth Thomas (23) and skipper Jac Morgan (20) were the next highest tacklers of the opening weekend.
Respect to them all, but Rowlands wasn’t reading too much into the figures. He was just pleased to have helped his side win on his World Cup debut.
“I always find it a bit weird when the number of tackles becomes the headline because you defend in a system. Guys run at you and you tackle them,” said Rowlands.
“It’s nice that people say nice things, but I just see it as me doing my job for the team.
“We’d gone into the World Cup feeling pretty confident, we’d done some good work, and we’re in a good place going into the games physically.
“It was a big first game for us to play Fiji. They’re a dangerous team and the group is evenly poised.
“To get a win is fantastic and now we focus on the next game against Portugal, where we’ll try and do the same again.”
Rowlands may have earned himself a breather for round two after his epic effort against the Fijians, but he will no doubt be back in the thick of the action against Australia in round three. Back in 2015, Charteris only had a week to recover before Wales took on Italy in the Six Nations.
There was a bit of confusion surrounding how many tackles he actually made against the Irish. Official statisticians initially suggested 37, revised it to 26 before finally settling on 31 – still a Six Nations record for one game, being four more than French flanker Serge Betsen.
The Welsh team analysts put his herculean effort at 38 challenges, consisting of 21 outright tackles and 17 assists. The player himself had no idea of the level of impact he had had on the game.
“It all rolls into one when you are making tackles and carrying the ball. It’s all about impact and I had no idea how many tackles I made,” said Charteris post-match.
“You feel a bit tired, when you’re at game speed you realise the boys are making a lot of tackles but that’s for the press to have a look afterwards. They are one of those things, tackles. It’s who they run at, and they decided to run at me quite a lot.”