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4 Ways The Rugby World Cup Will Be Using Technology

September 7, 2023
2 mins
4 Ways The Rugby World Cup Will Be Using Technology

Introduction

The Rugby World Cup is one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world. It is a quadrennial tournament that is contested by the top 20 teams in the world. The impending Rugby World Cup, starting in less than 3 days, will be held in France in 2023, and it is sure to be a thrilling event.

In recent years, technology has played an increasingly important role in rugby. This is likely to continue in the years to come, and the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be no exception.

This blog post will explore some of the latest technological innovations that will be used at the 2023 Rugby World Cup. These technologies include semi-automated offside technology, touch judges with iPads, virtual reality training, and data analytics.

Semi-automated offside technology

Semi-automated offside technology uses a network of cameras and artificial intelligence (AI) to track the position of players and determine whether or not they are offside. This technology works by tracking the position of the ball and the players' limbs. If a player's foot or any other part of their body is in front of the ball when it is passed, they are offside.

The semi-automated offside technology will be used in conjunction with the VAR (video assistant referee) system. The VAR will be alerted to any potential offside incidents, and they will then review the footage using the semi-automated offside technology. If the VAR confirms that the player is offside, they will notify the referee, who will then make the final decision.

The semi-automated offside technology has the potential to make the offside rule fairer and more accurate. It will reduce the number of subjective decisions made by referees, and it will also make it more difficult for players to cheat.

Smart Balls

The 2022 World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa saw the unveiling of innovative "smart ball" technology to assist referees and provide new analytics. Developed by Gilbert in partnership with Fujitsu, the smart ball uses sensors and beacons to track its real-time 3D position on the pitch up to 20 times per second. This technology was implemented to give immediate feedback on passes, kicks, and throws to aid officials on difficult calls like forward passes, touch locations, and try-line ball placement.

Specifically, the smart ball helps referees determine if a pass was thrown forward, precisely where the ball went into touch for lineouts, if the ball was touched in flight on kick charges, and whether the ball crossed over the try-line for a score. The television match official receives a live feed of the data to provide input to the referee as needed. Insights from the smart ball also deliver new analytics for broadcasts and digital platforms.

While this technology received positive reviews at the U20 level, World Rugby has suggested it may not be ready for implementation at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France. More testing and refinement are likely needed before rolling out smart ball tracking at rugby's premier international tournament. However, fans and officials alike got a glimpse of how such innovations could shape officiating and the fan experience in the future. The technology could help reduce scrutiny on referees for difficult calls and provide new levels of insight for analysis. If proven successful with further development, smart ball tracking seems poised to enter the mainstream of rugby competitions going forward.

Virtual reality training

Virtual reality (VR) is a technology that allows users to experience a simulated environment, while VR headsets are used to create a virtual world that the user can interact with. In 2023, rugby players will be able to use VR headsets to train for different scenarios. This could help them improve their skills and decision-making.

Simply put, VR enables realistic practice without the dangers of physical play. Especially for contact sports like rugby, where scrums and tackles take a toll, VR can support positive sports psychology and quicker injury recovery. Instead of feeling sidelined, rugby players can rehearse formations and mentally prepare for competitions while undergoing recovery and rehabilitation. When paired with strength training or yoga, VR helps athletes maintain their competitive edge post-injury. By virtually scrumming and running drills, rugby players keep their skills sharp during recovery. The innovative technology transforms sports training, allowing athletes to mimic the intensity of play without the bodily sacrifice. This sentiment was shared by Huw Jones, the Scotland centre. He said, “I’d be keen to use it more; the way our week is structured, we try to get as much out of training in a short space of time, but this is good because it’s pretty low-impact and doesn’t have a lot of strain on the body.” The Scottish National Rugby Team is one of the first public teams to try out the technology, headed up by their lead performance analyst. 

The use of VR for training is a relatively new innovation, but it has the potential to be very beneficial for rugby players. Moreover, it can help players train more effectively and efficiently while avoiding injuries.

Data analytics

Data analytics is the process of collecting and analyzing data to extract insights. This data can be used to improve decision-making, identify trends, and make predictions. In rugby, data analytics can be used to track player performance, identify weaknesses in the opposition, and develop new strategies.

For example, data analytics could be used to track the number of tackles that a player makes, the distance that they run, and the number of passes that they complete. This information could then be used to identify areas where the player needs to improve.

Additionally, it can also be used to track the performance of the opposition. This information could then be used to develop new strategies to counter the opposition's strengths. Overall, the use of data analytics is becoming increasingly important in rugby. It can help individuals, and subsequently teams, improve their performance and gain a competitive edge.

Conclusion

The use of technology in rugby is constantly evolving. The innovations that will be used at the upcoming 2023 Rugby World Cup are just the beginning. In the years to come, we can expect to see even more innovative ways to use technology in rugby. These technologies have the potential to make the Rugby World Cup a more exciting, fair, and competitive spectacle, which translates to a better overall experience for fans around the world. 

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