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NZ-born Wallaroo discusses ‘nerve-wracking’ build-up to Black Ferns Test

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Ask any New Zealander or Australian, and most would agree that there is no better rivalry in international sport than a contest against the neighbouring nation across the ditch.

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Whether it’s in rugby union, league, netball, cricket, sailing or even lawn bowls, a clash between the passionate rivals is sure to engage fans – bringing out the very best of what sport means to people.

The highly anticipated clash between Rugby World Cup champions New Zealand and the Wallaroos on Thursday is no different.

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Australia raced out to a commanding lead early in their pool play matchup at Eden Park last year, but New Zealand showed their class to record a comfortable win.

But both teams are ushering in a new era. The likes of Australia’s Shannon Perry and New Zealand’s Kendra Cocksedge have retired.

The next generation must step up.

In just her second Test match, playmaker Carys Dallinger will look to steer the Wallaroos to what would be one of their biggest wins in history.

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Playing in front of a buzzing crowd at a standalone Test match in Queensland, against the reigning world champions – it doesn’t get much bigger.

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Well, it does for Dallinger.

Like many New Zealanders, the playmaker grew up “chasing that black jersey dream.” But Dallinger’s rugby career has taken her across the ditch.

Dallinger will wear Wallaroos gold on Thursday instead of the famous black jersey, and will stand respectfully in front of the haka rather than performing it alongside some of her friends.

“Quite nerve-wracking but also really excited at the same time,” Dallinger told RugbyPass. “There’s a lot of mixed emotions because a lot of them are my friends and I’ve grown up playing with them.

“You’ve got to play the best to be the best so I’m excited for that challenge.

“Just fortunate enough to be picked for the Wallaroos and give this a go… international footy is the goal at the end of the day.”

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Dallinger never gave up on her rugby dream – she is only 23 after all – and has gone on to star in Super Rugby Aupiki with the Hurricanes Poua and the Queensland Reds in Australia.

But after losing the Super W to the Fijiana Drua in Townsville, the 23-year-old was set to return to New Zealand – but received a phone call from her manager.

Dallinger’s agent informed the skilful playmaker – who was eligible for New Zealand, Australia and England – that her flights had been put on hold.

After officially being included in the Wallaroos squad, the flyhalf made her international debut against Fiji at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium earlier this year.

Having starred in the No. 10 jersey, Dallinger has held off some tough competition to retain her spot in the starting XV for this week’s crucial trans-Tasman clash.

Dallinger’s rugby career may not have turned out how she expected, but the rising star clearly had no regrets.

“I always just had an inkling that I was going to end up in Aussie.

“You’re sort of tied to New Zealand chasing that black jersey dream, then just a few setbacks and Aussie has been calling my name for a long time.

”I always knew I was going to end up here, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be playing rugby, I just happened to fall into this quite fortunately and here we are riding the wave.”

Dallinger will link up with Layne Morgan in the halves in Redcliffe, and joins a star-studded line-up for the clash.

Western Force lock Michaele Leonard will captain the side for the first time.

The match between the Wallaroos and Black Ferns will get underway at 7.00 pm AEST on Thursday at Kayo Stadium, Redcliffe.

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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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