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Heartbroken Wales sent home from World Cup as Los Pumas roar into semis

By PA
Louis Rees-Zammit of Wales goes down with an injury during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between Wales and Argentina at Stade Velodrome on October 14, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Adam Pretty - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Wales crashed out of the Rugby World Cup after Emiliano Boffelli inspired an Argentina fightback that saw them win a thrilling spectacle 29-17 at Stade Velodrome.

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Warren Gatland’s team had high hopes of reaching a third World Cup semi-final in the last four tournaments, but Argentina ripped up the form book after struggling to qualify from their pool.

Wales led 10-0 through a Dan Biggar try, conversion and penalty, only for Boffelli to wipe out that deficit with four penalties during a damaging spell either side of half-time.

Scrum-half Tomos Williams’ try, again converted by Biggar, put Wales back in front, but Pumas prop Joel Sclavi touched down and replacement fly-half Nicolas Sanchez claimed an interception try during the closing seconds. Boffelli converted both and then Sanchez booted a last-minute penalty.

It all rubbed salt into a gaping Welsh wound, although the Pumas were fortunate to see lock Guido Petti avoid sanction for a shoulder-led hit on Wales centre Nick Tompkins 16 minutes from time.

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Referee Karl Dickson, who had taken over from an injured Jaco Peyper early on, awarded no card following television match official consultation, and Wales’ players looked perplexed.

Wales’ defeat meant the end of Biggar’s international career, having announced in August that he would retire from the Test arena post-World Cup.

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Poorfour 3 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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