Sensors and data are the future of rugby


(Pocket-lint) – With the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship well underway, you may have already seen how live dynamic statistics provided by Amazon Web Services have elevated the viewing experience.

First used last year, the Match Stats (Kick Predictor, Visits to the 22, Ruck and Turnover Locations, Dominant Tackles, and Power Game) are even more important considering we can’t presently attend the matches ourselves.

Using machine learning and data analytics tech, they help bring us into the sport in a more meaningful way, as we watch from our sofas.

However, they aren’t the only tech innovations that will benefit rugby in the coming seasons. As former England captain and AWS Six Nations ambassador, Will Carling, told us when we hooked up with him recently, safety can also be greatly improved through tech.

“I think sensors in gumshields could help massively in terms of how we deal with concussion and knocks to the brain,” he explained. “Monitoring those on a regular basis in training, not just in games, I think that would make players, parents, everyone feel far more confident about playing rugby.

“Knowing that your brain is being monitored very carefully by the doctors and medical team rather than it just being how you feel, that’s one area I think tech could really help rugby.”

It certainly makes sense to use a gumshield for more than just protection. Indeed, Opro is one company already manufacturing shields that come with sensor technology that can monitor head impacts. Carling would no doubt like to see more.

He’d also like to see other data gathering through sensors, for training purposes and even to help referees during big games: “If you had sensors in shoulders, for the scrum, you would be able to tell you where the power is coming from, what the angles are, all that sort of stuff,” he told us.

“It would give referees and TMOs (television match officials) a real insight into why did that scrum collapse? You know, was he looking at it with the naked eye? You just really don’t know. So I think it can be really useful.”

Basically, we’ve got all this technology at our fingertips, why not use it? Just don’t overdo it, Carling also warned: “In sport, emotional and mental ability is always going to be crucial too. So, data can help massively, but it doesn’t take away from [the fact that] players have got to be in the right frame of mind and and deal with with pressure and scenarios as they come up.”

You can listen to the whole of our interview with Will Carling in this week’s Pocket-lint Podcast (episode 90) available tomorrow, 12 February 2021.

Writing by Rik Henderson.





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