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Liam Mitchell outstanding in Wild Knights' mauling: Japan League One wrap

Liam Mitchell picked up Man of the Match for his two tries and impressive open play in the 81-21 victory

Former Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has suffered a third straight defeat in five games in his debut season in Japan Rugby League One as the Kobe Steelers fell 38-34 against Kubota Spears Tokyo Bay.


Under pressure after one win in four, and without injured Wallaby five-eighth Bernard Foley, the Spears had two tries from All Black hooker Dane Coles as well as 18-points off the boot of South African-born Japan representative Gerhard van den Heever as they grabbed a last-ditch win.

All Black flanker Ardie Savea scored the first of the home side’s five tries and they led 34-33 with just five minutes remaining before a late try by South African centre Rikus Pretorius settled the contest for the defending champions.

The anticipated match-up between Wallabies halves Quade Cooper and Will Genia and their All Black counterparts Beauden Barrett and Aaron Smith didn’t come off.

Barrett pulled out before the game while Smith only lasted 15 minutes as Toyota Verblitz ran out easy 47-14 winners against Hanazono Kintetsu Liners.

New Zealand five-eighth Richie Mo’unga scored his first try in Japan amid a 15-point haul in a comfortable win for unbeaten Brave Lupus Tokyo against Mie Honda Heat.

Former Australian Test fullback Tom Banks scored his first try of the season for the Heat, but they remain winless after a 40-12 defeat.


All Black Rugby World Cup skipper Sam Cane was yellow carded for a dangerous cleanout during Tokyo Sungoliath’s thrilling 29-25 victory over Shizuoka Blue Revs.

Cane had earlier scored the opening try of a game that also saw his Springbok counterpart Kwagga Smith see yellow in the first half after an accidental head clash.

Defensive technique was also an issue for Matt Toomua’s Sagamihara Dynaboars, who conceded 13 tries in an embarrassing 81-21 defeat by Saitama Wild Knights.


As well as the win, Wild Knights coach Robbie Deans would have been happy to see Wallaby winger Marika Koroibete get through 20 minutes of play at the end after a disrupted start to the season with injury.

Yokohama Eagles beat Australian Peter Hewat’s Ricoh Black Rams 24-8 in Saturday’s other match.



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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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