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'It's obviously very devastating' - Wallabies aim to bounce back against minnows

By AAP
Ben Donaldson - PA

The Wallabies plan to have all guns blazing against Portugal even if their Rugby World Cup campaign has been officially declared dead and buried 24 hours earlier.

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If pool rivals Fiji score four tries en route to a bonus point win over Georgia in Bordeaux on Saturday (Sunday AEST), Australia’s slim hopes of reaching the quarter-finals will be crushed.

Stinging from their record loss to Wales last round in Lyon, the Wallabies will look to salvage something from the disastrous campaign under coach Eddie Jones, who has been roundly blamed for the debacle. 

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They will chase five points if they are alive but, regardless, they’re determined to make a statement against world No.16 Portugal on Sunday (Monday AEST) in Saint-Etienne, with a loss unthinkable for the two-time world champions.

Australia will again be without skipper Will Skelton (calf) and star prop Taniela Tupou (hamstring).

Five-eighth Ben Donaldson said the battered playe rs had regrouped following their second pool loss to Wales which has all but ended their campaign.

“Losing with that scoreline in a World Cup, it’s obviously very devastating,” Donaldson said.

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“We’ve got another Test match this week so that’s the best way to get over a result like that … to put in a good performance for ourselves, our coaches and our fans here and also back at home. 

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“We’ve got so much support and that’s one of the reasons why everyone was so upset, because we’ve let the whole country down. 

“The boys are already moving on and we had a great session today so we will be ready to go.

“It’s pretty easy to get up for a Test match as you never know when it could be your last so we’re just trying to put everything out there on the line.” 

An Australia A line-up took on the Portuguese in a World Cup warm-up match in France last month, needing to overturn a 12-14-half-time deficit to post a 30-17 victory.

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Portugal fell to Wales by a smaller margin than the Wallabies and drew with Georgia so will be far from easybeats, according to Donaldson.

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“They pushed Wales for a good 50-60 minutes and they probably should have won last week against Georgia as well so they’re a growing team,” the 24-year-old said.

“They’re playing some real expansive footy, they’ve got some electrifying players in their team so we need to be on our game this week.”

Donaldson said the Wallabies needed to get off to a confidence-boosting start to put Portugal on the back foot.

“They like to play off unstructured ball so if we come out and we’re being too loose and we give them a bit of momentum to start with, it’s going to be pretty hard to gather that back. 

“We just need to be clinical, stick to our game plan as we’ve got a good plan in place.

“The coaches have been unreal this week, so just come out fast and be physical and hopefully the game rolls on from that.”

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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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