Rugby: possibly the most physically demanding of all team contact sports. It’s a dirty and hard scramble to victory that requires a combination of ruthless tactics and brutal tactility. Luckily, technology is on hand to help with the challenge. With the world famous tournament featuring six of the northern hemisphere’s finest rugby nations in full flow, the sport of rugby has never been so hi-tech.
I spy the fly-half
With fifteen players to a team, micro management is crucial to overseeing individual performance. A coach needs to assess every player’s contribution to the game in both training and matches. Player kits with GPS tracking enable the next stage of this athletic evaluation. Analysing player movements, speed and efficiency with real, hard data gives laser-targeted feedback (including, incredibly, heart rates), opening up essential insight into the team’s greatest strengths.
Given the hard-hitting nature of the sport, rugby is injury-heavy. Scrums are tough, and tackling is risky. The physical strain of smashing head on to the opposing team cannot be underestimated. The GPS system tracks the acceleration of each tackle and the impact it has on each individual. With this quantifiable information to hand, coaches have been able to identify and reduce potential injuries.
Ultimately, the GPS tech puts a huge wealth of previously unavailable data in the hands of the coach, giving them a lean advantage over both game preparation and game management. Maximising work rate, minimising failure.
Training for tries
It’s not just player fatigue that technology is calculating. With an outdoor sport it’s as much about the conditions in which the game is played as it is the players on the pitch. Strong winds, icy temperatures and the unforgiving sun can all determine how a game plays out.
New tech from Garmin seeks to deal with the threat from mother earth’s breezy gusts. A wind tracking device attached to the goalpost linked to a GPS watch allows teams to measure wind speed and direction. Knowing the elements that can change the course of a kick gives teams the chance to tailor their efforts accordingly. Sometimes just a minor alteration in direction of a last minute penalty kick can be the difference between victory and defeat.
The whistle blowers
The rule book-wielding official dictates play and has a decisive role in any match – and the ref is surrounded by a suite of smart tech. In addition to Hawk Eye there is also the ref cam: a solid piece of observational tech that seeks to affirm every decision made throughout the game’s 80 minutes. The ref cam is a lightweight HD camera unit, worn on the head or chest. Not only is it used to clarify any adjudicating during the match, broadcasters can tap into the feed to offer fans watching at home a more intimate view of the action. It’s a simple idea that gets viewers as close to the scrum as possible, without the need for studs.
From jerseys that provide precision climate control and track the physical condition of each player, through to innovative broadcasting capabilities, the technology behind rugby is pushing forward with all the gusto of a loosehead prop.
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