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New Zealanders Stacey Waaka and Leroy Carter ruled out of SVNS Vancouver

By Finn Morton
Stacey Waaka of New Zealand runs in for a try during the 2024 Perth SVNS women's match between New Zealand and USA at HBF Park on January 27, 2024 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Before a ball was kicked or a try scored at SVNS Vancouver, both the Black Ferns Sevens and All Blacks Sevens were dealt major blows as two star players were ruled out of the event.

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As confirmed by New Zealand Sevens on the eve of the SVNS Series’ fourth event of the season, Olympic gold medallist Stacey Waaka will miss the entire event due to a calf injury.

All Blacks Sevens ace Leroy Carter is another absentee this week with the 2023 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year nominee pulling up with a sore hamstring.

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Xavier Tito-Harris has been called up to replace Carter while Kelsey Teneti, who was impressive during SVNS Perth last month, will fill the gap left by the injured Waaka.

The rest of both squads remain unchanged. Both New Zealand teams are chasing their first Cup final win of the season after an uncharacteristically slow start to the 2023/24 campaign.

After losing to arch-rivals Australia in the Dubai final in December, the Black Ferns Sevens have failed to make it past the semis and quarters in the last two events respectively.

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But the New Zealand’s women’s sevens side, who were recently named the nation’s Team of the Year at the Halberg Awards, have been boosted by the return of some big-name players.

Theresa Setefano (nee Fitzpatrick) is back in the mix, and Shiray Kaka is another key inclusion after missing out on selection for the tournament in Perth.

23-year-old Risaleaana Pouri-Lane will captain the Black Ferns Sevens again this weekend.

As for the All Blacks Sevens, it’s hard to look past the selections of Joe Weber, Amanaki Nicole and Roderick Solo who are all back in black in Vancouver.

The New Zealanders failed to qualify for the Cup quarter-finals. They’ll be eager to get their campaign back on track in The Great White North.

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“It’s probably the amount of rugby that we’ve played,” Sam Dickson told RugbyPass in Perth late last month.

“We had a real disjointed off-season with more than half of our squad playing NPC and we didn’t really have a proper pre-season. We trying to play a little bit of catchup in that case.

“Credit to the other teams, they’re playing outstanding this year and you could see the whole level has raised so much. One to 12 could win the tournament.

“We’re slowly building towards the Olympics, the Olympics is our main goal. We’ve got a lot of boys returning from long-term injury that’s going to really reinforce our team and bring a lot of energy and fire.

“We’re not stressing. We know what we’re doing and we’ve got a plan in place.”

Updated Black Ferns Sevens squad

Michaela Blyde, Tyla King, Theresa Setefano, Portia Woodman-Wicliffe, Jazmin Felix-Hotham, Kelsey Teneti, Shiray Kaka, Tysha Ikenasio, Manaia Nuku, Risaleaana Pouri-Lane (c), Mahina Paul, Jorja Miller, Teneika Willison

Updated All Blacks Sevens squad

Scott Curry, Brady Rush, Akuila Rokolisoa, Sam Dickson (c), Amanaki Nicole, Joe Webber, Tim Mikkelson, Che Clarke, Tepaea Cook-Savage, Codemeru Vai, Fehi Fineanganofo, Xavier Tito-Harris, Roderick Solo

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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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