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New Zealand and Australia record big quarter-final wins at SVNS Vancouver

By Finn Morton
New Zealand are through to the SVNS Vancouver semi-finals. Picture: World Rugby.

New Zealand and Australia have both taken another step towards a potential Trans-Tasman final at SVNS Vancouver after winning their respective quarter-finals by commanding margins.

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The Black Ferns Sevens flew threw pool play with near-perfect wins over Brazil, South Africa and Ireland before stepping up once again in a 36-nil demolition of Spain on Saturday evening.

Olympic gold medallist Shiray Kaka scored a decisive double while Michaela Blyde, Mahina Paul, Jorja Miller and Jazmin Felix-Hotham also helped the Kiwis complete the big win.

This is New Zealand’s first appearance in a SVNS semi-final after the defending series champions failed to get the better of arch-rivals Australia in the Perth quarters last month.

“It is good to be back in the semis. The girls are going really well,” coach Cory Sweeney told RugbyPass. “Good flow and combinations, all the work that’s been going on the last probably six months is starting to pay off.

“We’ve just got to have a big one tomorrow against Canada which is going to be a special moment.

“Our ladies have experienced a couple of losses over the last three tournaments and that hurts and they’ve had moments where they get comments at home,” he added.

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“This is a real opportunity for them to prove to themselves and reignite that inner-belief.

“We’re not focused on other teams, we’re focused on ourselves and we’ll do everything that we can to make sure that we do our best.”

But the New Zealanders will need to overcome the colossal task of overcoming hometown favourites Canada in what promises to be a massive semi-final on Sunday.

Canada, who defeated North American neighbours the United States 12-10 in a thrilling quarter-final, had a full stadium cheering them on as they booked their spot in the next stage.

Tries to Florence Symonds and Krissy Scurfield had thousands of supporters on their feet at BC Place Stadium. But the atmosphere, as Sweeney explained, wasn’t as supportive as theirs.

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“It was a complete contrast to when we were playing, wasn’t it? Was dead silent. But yeah, what a cool moment for them,” Sweeney said.

“I know what happens when you’re at home, it’s a cool tournament to be at home. You’ve got your family, your friends and there’s pressure that goes with that so we’ll be certainly applying as much as we can tomorrow morning and hope for the best.”

Speedster Maddison Levi and Kaitlin Shave led the way for Australia as they booked their ticket to the semi-finals in the fourth and final quarter-final on Saturday night.

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Levi opened the scoring in the third minute, and a double from Shave put the Aussies in a strong position heading into the business end of this clash between two traditional sevens rivals.

Faith Nathan and Tia Hinds also added to the score, and while the Fijians fought back with tries in the 13th and 15th minutes, the result was never really in doubt as they won 35-19.

“I love it here. This is one of my favourite tournaments, I played here last year,” Australia’s Madison Ashby said on RugbyPass TV’s broadcast.

“The field, the atmosphere, it’s just unbelievable.

“Our coach has been drilling into our heads discipline – discipline with our ball placement, passing, just doing the basics right because that’s what’s going to win us games.

“Everyone knows their role and if that spreads throughout the team, I’m pretty sure we’ll come away with the win tomorrow.”

New Zealand will play hosts Canada in the first semi-final at about midday (local time) on Sunday before Australia faces SVNS Cape Town runners-up France in the other semi.

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Poorfour 10 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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