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The 2 players breakthrough Cardiff scrum-half Bevan models his game on

By Simon Thomas
Ellis Bevan of Cardiff Rugby passes the ball during the Investec Champions Cup match between Racing 92 and Cardiff Rugby at Paris La Defense Arena on January 20, 2024 in Nanterre, France. (Photo by Franco Arland/Getty Images)

The URC Origin Rounds are firmly focussed on supporting the grassroots game and Cardiff Rugby’s Ellis Bevan is certainly doing just that.

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The Arms Park scrum-half has taken up a role as an assistant coach with local community club Pentyrch and was on hand for their Division Two meeting with Penarth last weekend.

“It’s a great club with good people and something I’m enjoying,” said the Wales age-grade international.

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Pentyrch definitely appreciate having him on board, as club secretary Alun Davidson confirms.

“It’s a real credit to Ellis that he’s willing to give something back to a grassroots club in the region he plays for,” he said.

“We’re really pleased to welcome him to the club and hope he enjoys his time coaching with us.”

Club captain Sam Scanlon added: “It’s a real boost for the boys to have Ellis join us as a coach. We can learn a lot from his insight and knowledge of the game.”

The England-born Bevan, who qualifies for Wales through his father, is quick to acknowledge the part grassroots teams played in his own journey to the professional ranks.

Raised in Solihull, in the west Midlands, he started out with two local clubs – Pertemps Bees and Old Silhillians – going on to attend Bryanston College, in Dorset, and then study at Cardiff Met.

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It was Met team socks he wore for the Round 10 Origin clash with Connacht at the Arms Park, in a nod to the part the college played in his development.

“I went through the Welsh Exiles set-up and I was advised if I wanted to progress in the Welsh system it was a good idea to go to a University here,” he explained.

“Obviously I knew Cardiff Met was pretty decent. It married up with my studies and had good rugby facilities.

“I really enjoyed my time there.”

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His obvious talent saw him selected to represent Wales U20s, adding to caps at U18s and U19s level.

Then, in his final year at University, in 2020, the business and law student was offered the chance to train with Cardiff Rugby and secured a regional contract on the back of that.

“I’ve always pushed to be a professional rugby player. That’s always been the dream,” he said.

While he was born, raised and schooled in England, his Welsh roots run deep, as his name suggests.

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“My dad grew up in Sketty in Swansea,” he explains.

“He moved to the Midlands for work when he was in his mid-20s and he’s been there ever since.

“He had a massive impact in terms of pushing my Welsh roots. It’s always been a Welsh household in terms of the mentality of it.

“Come the Six Nations and the autumn internationals, we would always be at the Principality Stadium for the games.

“So it’s always been Wales.”

That’s further demonstrated by the identity of his favourite players when he was growing up.

“My first recollection of rugby was probably Shane Williams. He was my hero, him side-stepping and that sort of stuff,” he reveals.

“Then I fully invested in rugby and became a proper fan around 2012, 2013, with the Grand Slam and into the Lions where Wales had such a big impact. That’s when I realised I was a super fan.

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“Shane Williams and Mike Phillips were a massive part of it at that time, along with George North.

“Then growing up and becoming a scrum-half, I looked at Aaron Smith for technical and Mike Phillips for the bigger, physical attributes of a No 9.”

Having bided his time at the Arms Park for a couple of years, he has enjoyed a real breakthrough this season, making ten appearances already.

He has generally served as back-up to Wales star Tomos Williams, but handed a start against Connacht he produced arguably his best performance for the region.

“Tomos is a great player to learn off, but as much as I do that, we are not the same player,” he said.

“I am just trying to be the best version of me, whether that’s seeing a bit of space and using my instinct or playing structured and using my kicking game, which I like to think is decent.

“I feel I bring quite athletic and physical attributes, whether that be my fitness or athletic ability. I try to get to rucks at high-speed and obviously that’s the way we like to play.

“For me, it’s keep improving and keep developing. I am by no means the finished article, but hopefully I can keep pushing and more and better things are to come.”

Next up for Bevan will be Saturday evening’s Origin Round encounter with URC table toppers Leinster at the Arms Park.

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Poorfour 3 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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