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The Brumbies outline where they must improve to beat Chiefs

By AAP
Samisoni Taukei'aho of the Chiefs charges forward during the Super Rugby Pacific Semi Final match between Chiefs and Brumbies at FMG Stadium Waikato, on June 17, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

While a 27-point win over the Rebels looks good on paper, the ACT Brumbies were far from happy with their opening Super Rugby Pacific match and are out to make amends in Melbourne on Sunday.

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The Brumbies will face the Chiefs at AAMI Park as part of Super Round, with all 12 teams in action there over the weekend.

The Chiefs were also first-round winners, exacting some revenge from last year’s grand-final loss to the Crusaders.

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Brumbies skipper Allan Alaalatoa said the scoreline against the Rebels at the same venue had flattered his team and they’d identified areas for improvement.

Among the telling statistics the Canberra team missed 42 tackles and conceded a whopping 20 penalties.

“The score was good and we scored some points off some individual brilliance there with Charlie Cale and and Corey Toole, but there’s definitely plenty to work on and that’s something that we’ve touched on throughout the week,” the injured prop told AAP.

“We’re in for a massive game on Sunday – the Chiefs played really well against the Crusaders and that was a great game – so we’ve spoken about a lot of areas that we need to improve that will be key for us.

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“Penalties have been a massive point for us especially ones that we can control around the ruck area, so we need to make sure we’re better there because that could definitely hurt us this weekend.

“That’s an area we’ve focused for this match and through the season.”

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Playing at No.8, Cale had a breakout Super match scoring two tries including one where the 23-year-old kicked ahead down the sideline and regathered to touch down.

Alaalatoa said he wasn’t surprised by the athleticism of the Dubbo product, who has replaced France-based former Wallaby Pete Samu at the back of the scrum.

“It wasn’t a surprise to me because he’s been delivering that training for the last couple of years and been learning a lot off Pete (Samu) and has been biding his time,” he said.

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“Some of the stuff he does,  he has a skill-set of another back.”

Rupturing his Achilles during a Bledisloe Cup match last July, Alaalatoa has been working his way back to fitness and said he hoped to start running next week, targeting a return to Super Rugby in late April.

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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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