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Chiefs switch up tight five for Brumbies clash in Melbourne

By Ned Lester
Naitoa Ah Kuoi of the Chiefs in action during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between ACT Brumbies and Chiefs at GIO Stadium, on May 27, 2023, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

The Chiefs got their Super Rugby Pacific 2024 campaign off to a dream start in round one, securing a hard fought win over the side thats stole the trophy from them last year.

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The win over the Crusaders looked to have come at a cost though, with influential flyhallf Damian McKenzie taken from the field with an injury.

The team revealed this week though that the nature of the injury was confirmed to be bruising around the ribs and not anything serious that would keep the playmaker from taking the field.

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McKenzie has thus been named in the 10 jersey for his team’s Super Round clash with the Brumbies in Melbourne.

From a finals rematch in round one, the Chiefs now face their 2023 semi-final opponents in week two, a matchup where the chip is on the other shoulder.

The Waikato team will be without Quinn Tupaea once more for the contest, the midfielder suffered a concussion that has seen him sit out the travel to Australia. Tupaea will also miss the round three game against the Reds, a frustrating blow for the 24-year-old after a long ACL rehab.

Hooker Bradley Slater will celebrate his 50th Chiefs appearance in another starting role, with All Black Samisoni Taukei’aho set to come ff the bench.

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“It’s very special for me to play 50 games for the Gallagher Chiefs. The club has offered me a lot and I am very grateful to be a part of this team,” Slater said.

With such a deep squad, head coach Clayton McMillan is wanting to use the beginning of the season to hand out opportunities to his squad.

Props Ollie Norris and George Dyer have moved into the starting unit this week after being employed as impact in round one, while lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit will make his season debut.

“Early on in the season we want to give our people legitimate opportunities to stake a claim for a jersey,” he said.

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“Those that we have brought into the starting lineup have had really positive moments throughout the preseason so are duly rewarded this week. That’s the beauty of our squad, there are a lot of very capable people who can step into positions when that opportunity presents itself.

“If you look at the balance of the squad though it is relatively unchanged with a lot of cohesion.

“We know what we are coming up against this weekend with the Brumbies who are one of the best teams in the competition. They have a clear understanding of where their strengths lie and really play to them so we just have to be good enough to impose our own strengths against them.”

Gallagher Chiefs team to face the Brumbies:

1. Ollie Norris
2. Bradley Slater
3. George Dyer
4. Manaaki Selby-Rickit
5. Tupou Vaa’i
6. Samipeni Finau
7. Kaylum Boshier
8. Luke Jacobson
9. Xavier Roe
10. Damian McKenzie
11. Etene Nanai-Seturo
12. Rameka Poihipi
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
14. Liam Coombes-Fabling
15. Shaun Stevenson

Reserves
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho
17. Jared Proffit
18. Reuben O’Neill
19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi
20. Simon Parker
21. Cortez Ratima
22. Josh Ioane
23. Daniel Rona

Unavailable for selection: Kaleb Trask, Emoni Narawa, Josh Lord, Gideon Wrampling, Quinn Tupaea.

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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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