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The reason why Tommaso Allan has put his Italy Test career on hold

By Liam Heagney
Italy's Tommaso Allan celebrates his recent try versus England (Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images)

Recent Italy pick Tommaso Allan has decided to put his Test career on hold. The Perpignan player was a starter at full-back in the opening round of the Guinness Six Nations versus England in Rome on February 3 and his converted 25th-minute try helped his team into a 17-8 lead.

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The Azzurri were eventually beaten 24-27 at Stadio Olimpico, and Allan was then an unused sub for last Sunday’s 0-36 round two loss to Ireland in Dublin.

That idleness has now resulted in the French-based player’s decision to take a break from international duty and he wasn’t named in the squad of 33 that will assemble in Rome next Sunday ahead of the February 25 round three fixture away to France in Lille.

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Allan, who started all four of Italy’s recent 2023 Rugby World Cup pool matches when Kieran Crowley was still in charge, reportedly wrote on social media: “This decision was not easy to make. It was a very tiring year physically and mentally.

“Being away from my family for months only made things harder. The decision was made for my well-being and that of the team. Thank you as always for your continued support. Forza Italia.”

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In a statement confirming Italy’s round three squad, reference was made to the discussions that had taken place between Allan and new Italy coach Gonzalo Quesada following the round two loss in Ireland.

“The Italian coach, after a discussion with the player after the match in Dublin, has decided by mutual agreement with him not to select Tommaso Allan for the third day of the championship. The Perpignan player has asked to observe a period of rest from his international activity.”

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Quesada said: “Tommaso is an excellent professional and, more importantly, a person of unquestionable value.

“The men, even before the athletes, are at the centre of our evaluations and that is why, after discussing with Tommaso and fully understanding his needs, we decided together with him for an additional rest period.”

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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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