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Antoine Dupont magic not enough in his first sevens tournament

By PA
TOPSHOT - France's Antoine Dupont scores a try during the 2024 HSBC Canada Sevens rugby tournament match between France and USA at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Canada, on February 25, 2024. (Photo by Don MacKinnon / AFP) (Photo by DON MACKINNON/AFP via Getty Images)

Antoine Dupont was unable to inspire France to sevens silverware as New Zealand edged them out in the semi-finals of the HSBC SVNS event in Vancouver.

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France’s regular 15-a-side captain, whose late try fired his country into the last four on Saturday in a quarter-final win over Ireland, has opted to skip the Guinness Six Nations in order to focus on playing sevens ahead of this summer’s Olympics in Paris.

France missed scrum-half Dupont’s skills earlier on Sunday as Les Bleus were stunned in a 13-13 Six Nations draw with unfancied Italy in Lille.

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France 7s Captain Paulin Riva Dupont joining the 7s squad

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France 7s Captain Paulin Riva Dupont joining the 7s squad

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But the 2021 men’s world player of the year, playing in his first sevens tournament, had to settle for a third-place play-off in Canada as New Zealand beat France 28-26 in a high quality sevens contest.

New Zealand took control of the semi-final after early tries from Cody Vai and Akuila Rokolisoa gave them a 14-5 interval advantage.

Jordan Sepho’s try helped France cut the lead to 14-12, but New Zealand stretched away again before consolation scores from Rayan Rebbadj and Joseph Jefferson Lee.

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Poorfour 10 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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