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Australia captain Will Skelton: What Jones told team about Herald story

By PA
Eddie Jones - PA

Australia captain Will Skelton believes speculation has been “knocked on the head” linking Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones with Japan.

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A newspaper report published just hours before kick-off of Australia’s Rugby World Cup clash against Wales claimed that Jones had been interviewed for the Japan job last month.

Skelton, though, said: “I think it is something that has been knocked on the head there.

“Eddie has denied it with us. We have full trust in him also. I don’t think it was a distraction leading into the game.

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“I don’t have to (ask Jones directly). I heard the press conference last night. I trust in there what he says – he is a man of his word.

“At the moment we are in a World Cup in France, so we are definitely focused on this. What happens after that is out of our control.”

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Australia’s record 40-6 loss to Wales has left them on the brink of pool-stage elimination for the first time in World Cup history.

They have one Pool C game left against Portugal, but the outcome of that is likely to be irrelevant with Fiji firm favourites to join Wales in the last-eight.

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Asked why he believes Jones is still the right coach to lead Australia, Skelton added: “I think his long-term vision and what he wants Australian rugby to be back to, I think that is a positive.

“The way he is around the group. You see in the media he has his persona, but when you see him one-to-one, in front of the team, how he speaks, how he directs, the boys follow him and I do as well.

Fiji Wallabies Will Skelton
Will Skelton of Australia looks on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Australia and Georgia at Stade de France on September 09, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“He is a fantastic coach with a massive rugby IQ. We are learning every day when we are working with him.”

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Skelton missed the Wales clash due to injury, and he admits the result is set to hurt for a long time.

“We came back to the hotel last night after Eddie debriefed the team, we got the players together, we connected up, we had a chat together,” Skelton said.

“It is almost something that you have got to let sit. The boys will not grieve, but it will sting for a long time for us.

“We obviously not only let ourselves down, but we let all our fans and our families back home down.

“It was probably our best week of preparation, and that’s the frustrating thing, that it didn’t transfer on to the field.

“You have got to give credit to Wales. They squeezed us, they put pressure on our ball-carrying. They came with a game-plan to squeeze us at set-pieces, and their defence was awesome.

“It takes a day or two emotionally to get back after a loss like that with so much on the line. It is still quite raw.”

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Poorfour 5 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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