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Familiar faces return as Crusaders name team for Super Round

By Ned Lester
David Havili of the Crusaders charges forward during the round 14 Super Rugby Pacific match between Crusaders and NSW Waratahs at Orangetheory Stadium, on May 27, 2023, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Crusaders have emerged a little worse for wear from their round one Super Rugby Pacific defeat to the Chiefs, revealing two key injury blows.

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After losing influential pivot Richie Mo’unga in the offseason, and then his successor Fergus Burke to injury, the team will now be without Rivez Reihana for an as yet unknown period after the playmaker sustained a shoulder injury late in the season’s opening contest.

All Black prop Tamaiti Williams will also miss time due to what the team labelled a “significant” hamstring injury. His timeline is also yet to be confirmed.

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On a positive note, the reigning champions this week will see two of their All Blacks make their season debuts, with David Havili and Fletcher Newell named in the starting XV.

The reinforcements come along with replacements for the injured players, with young Taha Kemara suiting up as the team’s last healthy specialist No 10.

Elsewhere, Noah Hotham has been handed a start at halfback after a strong outing off the bench in round one. The young halves partnership may project inexperience, but in addition to starting together for the New Zealand U20s last year, Hotham and Kemara have been playing rugby together since primary school.

Crusaders team to face the Waratahs:

  1. George Bower
  2. George bell
  3. Fletcher Newell
  4. Scott Barrett (c)
  5. Quinten Strange
  6. Dominic Gardiner
  7. Tom Christie
  8. Cullen Grace
  9. Noah Hotham
  10. Taha Kemara
  11. Macca Springer
  12. David Havili
  13. Levi Aumua
  14. Sevu Reece
  15. Chay Fihaki

Reserves

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16. Quentin MacDonald
17. Joe Moody
18. Owen Franks
19. Jamie Hannah
20. Christian Lio-Willie
21. Mitchell Drummond
22. Ryan Crotty
23. Dallas McLeod

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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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