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'Cheika got my UK number - I never gave it to him, didn't want to'

By Online Editors
Tatafu Polota-Nau. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Tatafu Polota-Nau thought he had escaped the clutches of Michael Cheika.

But the Wallabies coach proved his investigative and negotiating skills were up to scratch, luring the English-based hooker home out of the blue for a potential third World Cup campaign.

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“I am quite shocked to be back here,” the 89-Test veteran hooker told reporters ahead of a possible return in Saturday’s Rugby Championship Teat against Argentina in Brisbane.

“I was in good stead with the (Premiership Rugby club) Leicester preseason and all of a sudden my phone rings,” said 33-year-old Polota-Nau.

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“Little did I know Michael Cheika got my UK number – I never gave it to him, didn’t want to, but somehow he got it.

“He asked if I’d come along and I said ‘sure why not, I’ll give it one last crack’.”

Noted scrummager Polota-Nau admits he wasn’t happy with what he thought was his farewell Wallabies form last year and it took some convincing from the coach to drag him back i nto the fold.

Knee surgery in the English off-season behind him, Polota-Nau rates himself a chance to feature at Suncorp Stadium and push younger hooking options like in-form Folau Fainga’a ahead of September’s World Cup in Japan.

“It ended with a sour note last season … I sort of thought it was my last with the Wallabies,” he said.

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“I didn’t have the stamina I used to have, but that’s because my preparation wasn’t the best.

“It’s from my end just to see if I’ve still got it … give these guys (younger hookers) a run for their money.”

The Wallabies are unbeaten in their last five Tests in Brisbane but have won just two of their last seven Rugby Championship clashes.

Argentina are well-stocked with Jaguares talent that played in the Super Rugby decider and, despite losing their last six Tests, present as a genuine threat after their plucky win on the Gold Coast last year.

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– AAP

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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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