It’s 6.30am and peered over a laptop in a darkened hotel room in Tbilisi, Georgia is England Rugby analyst Steve Cooper. Not that unusual you may think. At this point Cooper has been awake and working for 22 hours. Tired eyes, frazzled mind. At 7am he will sleep…a few hours later he will be back awake and back to work. Why? For the sole aim of helping England improve.
“Ultimately we’re trying to help improve and impact the performance and development of the players,” says Cooper.
Preparation for match day would have started several days earlier, but in Cooper’s world, game day is a big day.
He will have a ‘lie in’ and wake at 9am. His first job will to be to finalise the Wales preview loop for player reviews - with animation.
Players have the option to use resources prepared on how Wales have played previously, in presentation, video and database format. Information is available on opposition players and the team.
For Cooper, 26, this is his second World Rugby U20 Championship working as analyst for England Rugby on behalf of Insight.
He studied sport science and mathematics at Nottingham Trent University before studying a masters in sports science.
Attention to detail
At 10am BST he will pack for the match. That will include four laptops, ‘capture equipment’ which allows him to take in live feeds, a camera and tripod filming equipment to record backfield activity. Attention to detail, no stone is left unturned…all to help England improve.
An hour later players from the non matchday 23 will start their analysis of Australia. Making the most of every spare minute is crucial in a tournament that sees the side play five games in three weeks.
Cooper will spend his afternoon downloading the earlier kick offs in preparation for data basing. He will get three different angles of each game.
Sunday saw two new players arrive into camp because of injuries to Ali Crossdale and Dom Morris in the opening fixture against Samoa.
He will share information and analysis with new arrivals Paolo Odogwu and Darren Atkins to get them up to speed.
At a pre-match meeting Cooper will unleash a motivational video and the coaches will address the team for a final time. You can hear a pin drop.
The big match
Several of England Rugby’s backroom team will set off early for the game to ‘set up’. It’s at this point the adrenaline starts pumping, this is what the hard work is all for.
So what is going through his mind during a game?
“I’m trying pre-empt what the coaches would see,” he said. “Trying to gauge what they might want to highlight and analyse. I spent a lot of time with the coaches so that I can pre-empt them, but ultimately I’m trying to provide something useful for them to use.”
He will code some information live around set piece, discipline, possession, territory and conversion rates, which is there to feedback where applicable.
After a power cut, a floodlight failure and a further in-game stoppage the match is over. While the players can finally switch off for the night, Cooper is just getting going. It’s 11.30pm.
His number one priority is making sure the match is available for coaches and players to review. Stacking the multiple views of the game to ensure nothing is missed.
“Post-match analysis is so important because a person’s retention of instances that happened in match under the pressure of elite sport is lower than you might imagine, outside of major events” explains Cooper.
He adds: “Context is so important in sport, having an idea of what would be an average performance for a team/player allows us to better judge whether a particular area of the game has been a success or not,
“Vice versa - context is important when dealing with statistics. What the video says is more important, sometimes the numbers give us guidance of where in the video we need to look to improve collectively and individually.”
The next few hours are manic.
Review and preview
Coaches are provided with a four-view footage along with next opposition footage and team stats. Player laptops are loaded with match footage and team clips. Cooper will be well supported from the dedicated office team at Insight on data collection. It’ll be 3.30am until this is finished and he’ll go through the match a further two times. Analysing, reviewing.
His match report is compiled and completed by 4.30am, including team specific attacking, defensive and set piece statistics.
He’ll then start drafting Australia preparation. No minute is wasted. Time is precious.
So what gets him through a 22-hour day?
“I love working with the players, seeing a player develop from the age of 17 to U20 level where they are now,” he reveals. “Seeing that progression is really enjoyable.”
It’s 7am, with tired eyes and a frazzled mind, Cooper puts himself to bed.
45 minutes later he will be back awake and do it all over again. Why? For the sole aim of helping England improve.