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Adam Beard assesses Dafydd Jenkins' Wales captaincy so far

By PA
Dafydd Jenkins/ PA

Adam Beard says Wales will relish the size of their challenge against Guinness Six Nations title favourites Ireland in Dublin.

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Wales have not won a Six Nations game at the Aviva Stadium since 2012, drawing one and losing four of the subsequent meetings.

And they face an Ireland side firmly on course to achieve an historic feat of winning Six Nations Grand Slams in successive seasons.

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Scotland fans react to dramatic finish in the Six Nations to France

Finlay was on the ground at Murrayfield to find out what the fans thought about that tight finish between Scotland and France.

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Scotland fans react to dramatic finish in the Six Nations to France

Finlay was on the ground at Murrayfield to find out what the fans thought about that tight finish between Scotland and France.

Having accounted for France and Italy in bonus-point fashion, Andy Farrell’s team will be backed by many to inflict similar pain on Wales on February 24.

Wales lost their opening games to Scotland and England – albeit by a combined total of just three points – so a tall order awaits them.

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“Physicality is going to be one of the key components of the game,” 53-cap Wales lock Beard said.

“You see the way Ireland play their rugby. It is all about speed, winning collisions and the breakdown.

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“Defensively, we have to match up with that physical battle, and in attack it’s about being clinical and physical. It will be a tough game, but one we are looking forward to.

“Ireland are a team that are playing with confidence, and it helps when a lot of them play club rugby together. We are excited to get stuck into them.”

Wales have a new look about them in this season’s Six Nations, with Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar having retired from Test rugby, Louis Rees-Zammit now concentrating on a possible American football career and the likes of Jac Morgan, Taulupe Faletau and Dewi Lake all injured.

It has meant Six Nations opportunities for others, including players like Cameron Winnett, Ioan Lloyd, Archie Griffin and Alex Mann, while 21-year-old Exeter lock Dafydd Jenkins is Wales’ youngest captain for 56 years.

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Beard added: “We are not far away. This squad is fairly new and boys are experiencing Six Nations rugby for the first time.

“These narrow losses (27-26 against Scotland and 16-14 against England) are disappointing, but can be good for us because it is a learning curve for a lot of players.

“If we keep working hard and developing our game, we are going to be a tough squad to beat and winning a lot more games than we are losing.

“It has probably been two great 40-minute performances from each game. We are a young squad, but Daf Jenkins hit the nail on the head after the (England) game that we can’t use that as an excuse.”

Beard has been impressed with Jenkins’ leadership, a quality he has carried into the tournament after skippering Exeter this season to strong positions in the Gallagher Premiership and Investec Champions Cup.

“He is doing great,” Beard said.

“There are a lot of leaders in this squad, and we are trying to help him out as much as possible and not have too much weight on his shoulders.

“He has had a lot of experience captaining Exeter, and he has taken things in his stride.

“It has not affected his performances in any shape or form. He has been playing some of his best rugby.

“He speaks when he needs to speak, and people listen.”

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Poorfour 11 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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