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Super Rugby Pacific Countdown: Every announced pre-season fixture

By Ned Lester
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The countdown is on. Super Rugby Pacific is just a month away but fans need only wait until the opening days of February to catch their teams back in action.

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The 2024 pre-season promises more excitement than ever with fixtures between top Super Rugby clubs and the best teams of Japan and Europe to set the scene for a new era of Super Rugby Pacific talent.

As always, the year following a Rugby World Cup sees clubs’ succession planning put to the test, as stalwarts and legends depart and new faces attempt to live up to the standards of the jerseys left behind.

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Names like Sam Whitelock, Michael Hooper, Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga will be among the notable absentees come February, while Sam Cane, Ardie Savea and Beauden Barrett are all in line to return to Super Rugby in 2025 after sabbaticals in Japan this year.

Which youngsters will get a crack at the next level in their absence? And can they make their mark and demand minutes moving forward?

These questions will begin to find answers once Super Rugby Pacific’s regular season kicks off on February 23. In the meantime, we shall get a sneak peak in the pre-season which begins on February 2.

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Here are each of the announced pre-season fixtures.

Friday, February 2

Highlanders vs Moana Pasifika, Queenstown Events Centre, 6pm NZT

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Saturday, February 3

Rebels vs. Waratahs, 2.30pm AEDT, TBC
Melbourne Reds vs. Force, 3.15pm AEST, Ballymore Stadium
Brumbies vs. Drua, 6.45pm AEDT, Viking Park, Canberra
Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath vs. Blues, TBD, Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium

Sunday, February 4

Munster vs. Crusaders, TBD, Munster’s Páirc Uí Chaoimh
Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights vs. Chiefs, TBD, Kumagaya Rugby Stadium.

Friday, February 9

Highlanders vs Hurricanes, Queenstown

Saturday, February 10

Bristol Bears vs. Crusaders, TBD, Bristol
Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo-Bay v Chiefs, TBD, Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium
Yokohama Canon Eagles v Blues, TBD, Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium
Perth Reds vs. Waratahs, 7.40pm AEST, Gallas Fox Park, Roma
Force vs. Brumbies, 5pm WST, Revo Fitness Stadium,

Friday, February 16

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Crusaders vs. Highlanders, 6pm AEST, Methven Rugby Club
Rebels vs. Drua, 4.30pm AEDT, Gosch’s Paddock, Melbourne
Hurricanes vs. Moana Pasifika, NZCIS (Wellington)
Blues vs. Gallagher Chiefs, Takapuna Rugby Club, Onewa Domain, 4pm

Saturday, February 17

Waratahs vs. Warringah/Manly, 6.30pm AEDT, Pittwater Rugby Park, Sydney

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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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