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Warren Gatland releases one player from Wales squad back to region

By Josh Raisey
Warren Gatland/ PA

Wales have opted to send just one player back to their region ahead of the fallow weekend in the Guinness Six Nations, Dragons flanker Taine Basham.

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The 24-year-old has made just one appearance so far this Championship, with Warren Gatland using him from the bench against England in round two at Twickenham.

Basham will now be available to face Ulster in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday at the Kingspan Stadium, with his head coach Dai Flanagan saying he needs “regular rugby”.

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“It’s great to have Taine back. He needs to play some regular rugby now,” said Flanagan to the Dragons website.

“It’s been a stop start season for Taine since he’s come back from the World Cup.

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“Taine is a young man, and we need to support him, back him and give him the opportunity to show the world what he can do, because you don’t get man-of-the-match against New Zealand if you’re not very good.

“Taine can do stuff that no one in Wales, as a back row player, can. He can break a line, can offload, he carries, he’s powerful. He gets a lot of turnovers with rips,” he added.

“His biggest asset to us needs to be his consistency. That’s what we’re looking to see this week.

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“He’s had a good block with Wales, worked extremely hard with Wales. We’re looking forward to seeing him come back, put our jersey on and work extremely hard for our group.”

Elsewhere in the Wales squad, the Gallagher Premiership contingent of Dillon Lewis, Nick Tompkins, Tommy Reffell, Will Rowlands and captain Dafydd Jenkins will return to their clubs despite having no game this weekend.

Top 14-based lock Will Rowlands will also return to Racing 92, who face Bordeaux-Begles on Saturday.

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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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