World Rugby announced on Wednesday the experimentation of a smart ball on the occasion of the U20 World Cup organized this summer in South Africa. The objective will be to help the referees on certain phases of the game, in particular the forwards.
World Rugby is ready to bet on technology. While, since last fall, the Six Nations Committee has decided to use a smart ball to provide the selections but also the public with real-time data, the international body intends to go even further. Through a press release, World Rugby has confirmed the launch of a full-scale experimentation of this technology on the occasion of the world championship of under 20 years, organized in South Africa from June 24 to July 14. .
Indeed, the data collected by this ball, resulting from a collaboration between the international federation, Sportable and Gilbert, will be used in real time by the referees with the goal of “making accurate decisions faster, especially on a number of common, but difficult, aspects of the rule”. In particular, it is a question of “knowing whether a forward pass has been made, whether the ball has crossed the goal line, whether the ball has been touched in flight, where the ball has gone out of touch and whether a throw in touch was straight”. World Rugby indicates that the data will be transmitted to the video referee in charge of the meeting and the latter “may use the information to report to the referee”.
World Rugby partnering with Gilbert & Sportable to undertake world’s first trial of smart ball technology in an officiating capacity.
✅ Closed trial at U20 Championship
✅ 5 aspects of law to be includedhttps://t.co/Q67PqDc76u #rugby via @worldrugby @Sportable @GILBERT_RUGBY
— World Rugby Media (@worldrugbymedia) May 17, 2023
World Rugby is not targeting the 2023 World Cup
However, it is specified that, given “the emerging nature of the technology and the need to undertake a full review of the results”, this technology will not be used next fall during the World Cup organized in France. “Fast sport is good sport, and it is right that we look at technology that has the potential to help the flow of play, reduce stoppage time and speed up referee decision-making,” said said Phil Davies, director of rugby for World Rugby. Rugby refereeing is perhaps the most difficult role in our sport.
The evolution of smart ball technology opens the possibility to help match officials make more accurate decisions faster, eliminating subjectivity and reducing the risk of error. The U20 World Cup will also allow the trial of the “TMO Bunker”, which will allow the video referee to study a disputed action for up to ten minutes to judge whether a yellow card should become a red card. If the feedback is positive, World Rugby has clearly opened the door to an application from the next World Cup.