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Fiji survive Georgia scare to all but condemn Wallabies to pool stage exit

By PA
Waisea Nayacalevu of Fiji scores his team's first try during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Fiji and Georgia at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux on September 30, 2023 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Fiji fought back to beat Georgia 17-12 in Bordeaux and move closer to a World Cup quarter-final place.

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But Fiji’s failure to claim a bonus point keeps Australia’s slim hopes of reaching the knockout stage alive.

The South Sea Islanders will claim a quarter-final spot – probably against England – by beating Portugal next weekend.

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Georgia’s opportunism and brilliant defence gave them a surprise nine-point lead at the break.

Luka Matkava opened the scoring, with the boot of Davit Niniashvili adding six points from long range.

It was the first time Fiji had gone into the interval scoreless in a Test in six years.

Defence

108
Tackles Made
196
28
Tackles Missed
17
79%
Tackle Completion %
92%

Fiji finally got on the scoreboard six minutes into the second half as skipper Waisea Nayacalevu produced a brilliant finish under pressure to sneak over in the corner.

Frank Lomani added a difficult conversion and, strengthened by the return of Semi Radradra from the sin bin, Fiji piled on the pressure.

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Lomani’s penalty gave them the lead for the first time with 15 minutes remaining.

Three minutes later Levani Botia charged through a gap and found Vinaya Habosi, who sprinted over unopposed.

Attack

188
Passes
134
149
Ball Carries
105
371m
Post Contact Metres
267m
6
Line Breaks
7

Lomani landed the conversion but there was more drama in the final minute as Josua Tuisova was sent to the sin bin for making head contact on Miriani Modebadze.

Matkava kicked his second penalty and Fiji survived from the final play of the game when Niniashvili broke down the left and kicked ahead, only for Ilaisa Droasese, behind his line, to hack the ball to safety.

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Poorfour 4 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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