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Crusaders hooker ruled out of Super Rugby season through injury

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

Crusaders hooker Andrew Makalio has been ruled out of the 2021 Super Rugby season due to a neck injury.

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The Crusaders confirmed the news on Wednesday after Makalio injured his neck following a collision while playing for Tasman during last year’s Mitre 10 Cup.

Subsequent investigations and specialist opinions have determined that surgery is required to manage the injury.

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While no date has yet been set for Makalio to undergo the knife, the Crusaders confirmed the 29-year-old will take no part in this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaigns.

“We really feel for Drewza, and we wish him all the best with surgery and his recovery,” Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson said.

“While he won’t take part in any games this season, Drew is a really important member of our squad and his contribution off the field will be significant. We look forward to connecting with him on his return to Christchurch following surgery.”

Bay of Plenty hooker Nathan Vella, who has previously played Super Rugby for the Hurricanes, Sunwolves and Highlanders, has been called into the squad as Makalio’s replacement.

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The journeyman rake will compete with All Blacks star Codie Taylor and youngster Brodie McAlister for playing time in the No. 2 jersey.

Vella could make his first appearances for the Crusaders in their pre-season matches against the Highlanders in Temuka on February 12 and the Blues in Auckland on February 19.

The reigning Super Rugby Aotearoa champions will then kick their season off against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on February 26.

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Poorfour 11 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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