Any rugby fan in the “home” countries this week has been analysing the squad announcement for this year’s British and Irish Lions tour of Australia. Warren Gatland has chosen his 37 man squad to bring down under and unsurprisingly there are quite a few Welshman in the list. Despite losing to Ireland in the first round of the Six Nations this year (yay!), Wales were able to come storming back to win the championship for the second year running.
But how much did this performance impress Warren Gatland? Well out of 37 players chosen this week, 15 are Welsh, overhauling England with 10, Ireland with 9 and Scotland with a token contribution of 3 players. Percentage-wise that’s 40.5% Welsh, 27.0% English, 24.3% Irish and only 8.1% Scottish.
To illustrate this dominance I thought it might be interesting to create a cartogram, a map in which the land area of the familiar regions has been replaced with some other variable, here the squad composition. Cartograms have become increasingly popular in the last few years, in particular to illustrate disparities on a world scale. In all these cases the comparison is inherently with the standard land area of the usual map with which we are all at least familiar.
So here is what the British Isles/these islands/British and Irish Isles looks like when transformed using the Lions 2013 Squad composition:
Lions Squad 2013 Cartogram, created by Ian Huston. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
As you can see Wales is disproportionately represented in the Lions squad as we might have expected. Ireland seems to be pulling about right for its size given the relative lack of distortion but clearly England is not contributing as many players as it might (not even their captain made it!).
Of course rugby playing is not an evenly distributed facet of any of the countries involved. For historical and social reasons it has mainly been associated with one or other particular socio-economic class in each of the four nations. Perhaps a better indicator of which nation is punching above its weight would be to compare the number of squad members to the total rugby playing population as registered by the IRB, or even just the registered “Senior Males” playing in each country.
From the IRB website
we can find the number of players for each home union and the number of male players at Senior level. Then it’s straightforward to calculate the percentage of Lions squad members compared to the total number and only the senior male players. Here are the numbers:
||Senior Male Players
||Number of Lions Squad members
||Total Percent Lions
||Senior Male Percent Lions
Perhaps surprisingly Scotland has quite a lot of rugby players overall, but in terms of male players at senior level they are close to the same strength as Wales. England dominates the total statistics with an order of magnitude more players overall and at senior level than and of the other teams. In terms of Lions success however they only have 0.008% of senior male players in the Lions squad, compared to Ireland’s 0.02% and Scotland’s 0.04%. Wales is extremely dominant having around 0.13% of their senior male players in the squad.
The bottom line is that one male player in every 800 at senior level in Wales is going to Australia on the tour!
In order to create the cartogram, I had to delve into the world of GIS
. Natural Earth
has a remarkable catalogue of hand-curated public domain maps covering the whole world at various levels. In order to combine Ireland and Northern Ireland into one Island of Ireland area I used Quantum GIS
. The cartogram itself was created using the ScapeToad
java app. The data for the number of rugby players in each country comes from the IRB official website
. It was really easy to work with the data using Pandas
and then export to a HTML table using