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Franco Smith hails ‘extraordinary’ performance as Glasgow seal knockout berth

By PA
Glasgow Warriors v RC Toulon – Investec Champions Cup – Scotstoun Stadium

Glasgow Warriors head coach Franco Smith praised his players for an “extraordinary” performance as they booked their place in the last 16 of Investec Champions Cup.

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Two tries apiece from Huw Jones and Kyle Rowe and another from Josh McKay sealed a convincing 29-5 home victory over Toulon.

Warriors will be away from home when the competition resumes at the start of April and Smith revealed he was always confident they would progress from the pool.

He said: “If you look at the weather conditions, to score five tries with the ball in hand is extraordinary. They (Toulon) didn’t come here just to roll over.

“They defended very well, especially in the first half. This is a very good win for us.

“There are a lot of learnings to take from it but you can never take a European win for granted. I thought the way we built into the game was fantastic. I’m excited to say I was never in doubt that we would qualify for the last 16.”

Jones was named player of the match after being restored to his preferred berth in the centres after filling in on the wing due to an injury crisis in previous matches.

Smith added: “He was brilliant. It was never a case of not wanting to play him in centre. He was fantastic in helping us by playing on the wing. He put the club first which says a lot about the man and what the club means to him. That contribution is well appreciated.

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“I’m happy that he and Sione (Tuipulotu) clicked straight away. They’ve been training like this all the time. It was just our injury crisis over Christmas that forced us to play him on the wing. Again his attitude was fantastic.”

Kyle Steyn managed the full 80 minutes on his first appearance since October, putting him in contention for a Scotland place in the Six Nations opener away to Wales.

Smith added: “I thought both Kyles played really well. I was happy to see Kyle Steyn back leading into the Six Nations. To come back and prove to yourself that your fitness levels are alright and that you are back into the swing of things is important.

“We couldn’t play him last week as we felt he needed another week of training but he has done well to play 80 minutes tonight.”

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Poorfour 5 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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