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Watch: Slick Rhys Patchell offload sets up Highlanders try

By Josh Raisey
Rhys Patchell of the Highlanders celebrates scoring a try during the round two Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Blues at AAMI Park, on March 01, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

After two rounds of action, former Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell has made a superb start to his Super Rugby Pacific career with the Highlanders.

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A week after the 30-year-old produced a pinpoint long-range miss pass to create a try in his new side’s opening win over Moana Pasifika, he was at it again in round two.

This time it was a Sonny Bill Williams-esque offload to his winger Jona Nareki to set up a try for Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens against the Blues.

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Rhys Patchell on Leigh Halfpenny injury

Highlanders number ten Rhys Patchell discusses his relationship with currently injured Crusaders fullback, Leigh Halfpenny

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Rhys Patchell on Leigh Halfpenny injury

Highlanders number ten Rhys Patchell discusses his relationship with currently injured Crusaders fullback, Leigh Halfpenny

This silky piece of handling and a try of his own was not enough to bring the Highlanders the win, however, as they fell to their New Zealand rivals 37-29 in Melbourne.

Take a look at the try:

The 22-cap Wales international has made a great start to his Super Rugby career, which is a challenge he recently said he had long wanted to undertake.

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“It came as a bit of a surprise to me when I got a phone call saying, ‘do you fancy it?’ As soon as it came across the desk it was something I was pretty keen on, spins my wheels,” Patchell told RugbyPass.

“The opportunity to come down here, challenge myself in a completely different environment. I knew absolutely nobody at the club, wouldn’t know much about the crop of players that the Highlanders had coming through.

“It’s one of those things that wouldn’t have come again. I’ve said to other people before, I didn’t want to get to the end of my career and have lots of great opportunities but didn’t make the most of any of them or hadn’t taken any of them.

“(I) felt this was something that I absolutely wanted to do and fortunately I have a very supportive fiancé who was on board with the idea as well.

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“It was pretty quick from going, ‘what do you reckon’ to making a decision around it, and then a long wait after that to actually get your feet on the ground and get going.”

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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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