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'It's non-negotiable, I'm playing that game, no one is stopping me'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Bristol boss Pat Lam has hailed the phenomenal impact of Ellis Genge around the club as he prepares to feature in Friday’s Gallagher Premiership opener against Bath. England prop Genge, who captained Leicester to the Premiership title last term, is set for a match-day role in the west country derby at Ashton Gate.

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Bristol-born Genge, 27, started England’s Test series-clinching victory over Australia in Sydney just over seven weeks ago. “You have to put in your plan for them [the England players] and proposals and each club is different,” said Bristol rugby director Lam.

“You apply to the game management board, which is in partnership with Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association. We put a plan in for Ellis and it started on the basis that he arrived here and saw the first game and said: ‘It is non-negotiable. I’m playing that game. No one is stopping me playing that game’.

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“That was his mindset, so then we had to put a plan in place about how we would manage his game time going into November (internationals) and then going into the Six Nations. I was able to share that with Eddie (Jones, the England head coach) and he was very happy. Then it went to the game management board and they all signed it off.

Ellis is highly excited for the game and there are still a few seats left if people want to get down and see the impact he will make for Bristol on his homecoming.”

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Bristol finished tenth in the Premiership last season – they were title playoff contenders a year earlier – and the return of Genge to the club he represented between 2013 and 2016 has already had an effect. Lam added: “He has made a phenomenal impact. Actions first and foremost followed by very calm words that match the action but more importantly, he has enjoyed himself.

“He has come home. It’s great to have him back and, most importantly, he is happy. Without a doubt, there is more to come from him. He is a competitor. His actions will ensure he will get better. What I see from him, what I hear from him, what I observe, he is just growing and growing.”

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Lam, meanwhile, confirmed that Genge’s Bristol colleague and fellow England prop Kyle Sinckler is available for selection against Bath. Sinckler missed England’s Australia tour due to a back problem.

“The injury he had with his back, he played with a lot of pain and taking that break and working with the medical team, it’s great he is fit and healthy again. He is pumped. Training yesterday [Monday] was pretty intense and he looks ready to go.”

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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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