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Waratahs coach issues update on Lalakai Foketi neck injury

By AAP
(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

A loss to Super Rugby Pacific rivals Queensland Reds has been softened by the positive outlook for star centre Lalakai Foketi, who could be back at the club within a week.

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The Wallabies centre was hospitalised last Thursday after hurting his neck at training.

Some fears were allayed when initial scans cleared the 29-year-old of major spinal damage.

The forecast improved again when he was able to leave hospital on Friday and watch Saturday’s season-opener from home.

Coach Darren Coleman said Foketi had suffered ligament damage to his neck, similar to the injury suffered by Sydney Roosters NRL back Dom Young last week.

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And the coach said he could be back, performing light exercise in a neck brace, at their Daceyville base within a week.

“He watched the game tonight from home, there’s some ligament damage in the neck,” Coleman said, thanking all those who had sent messages of support.

“He’ll go through that, see a neuro specialist next week but he should be in and around the place sometime next week or the week after … to start rebuilding from there.

“All in all, he’s in good spirits.”

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The Waratahs failed to match the Reds on a wet Brisbane night on Saturday, beaten 40-22.

The Reds turned the ball over 14 times but caused plenty of issues around the ruck and in set piece, the Waratahs’ usually reliable line-out picked off by Reds captain Liam Wright.

Coleman tipped his cap to the Reds and blamed his side’s poor execution for their inability to keep up after the lead changed six times in the first-half.

It gets no easier for Coleman’s side, up against the Crusaders, Highlanders and Blues in the next three weeks.

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“I’m excited to play the Crusaders next week; coming off a loss too, they’ll be pretty fired up,” captain Jake Gordon said of their Melbourne Super Round assignment.

“We’ve got some stuff to improve on and learn.

“If we can do a little bit more of what we did in that first half tonight we’ll have a crack.”

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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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