World Rugby’s first smart ball technology trial!

🔜 World Rugby, in collaboration with Sportable and Gilbert Rugby, is set to embark on an unprecedented endeavor—the world's first trial of smart ball technology during live match officiating. This groundbreaking initiative will take place at the World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa in June.

With a keen focus on leveraging new technology and artificial intelligence, World Rugby aims to shape the future of the sport while elevating the fan experience. The introduction of the Gilbert smart ball holds great promise in assisting match officials with quicker and more accurate decision-making.

These critical areas encompass determining forward passes, confirming ball placement over the try-line, assessing touches in flight and during lineouts, identifying valid touch finds, and assessing the straightness of lineout throws. By harnessing the capabilities of the smart ball, World Rugby endeavors to streamline gameplay, enhance fairness, and ultimately revolutionize the sport with cutting-edge advancements.

🤔 How the technology will work

The smart ball is tracked in 3D and real-time with beacons positioned around the pitch to determine the exact position of the ball up to 20 times per second and provide immediate feedback on every kick, pass and throw.

At the World Rugby U20 Championship, the smart balls will assist match officials with the following use cases where visual assessment alone can be challenging and time-consuming:

▪ Throw forward
▪ Made touch location
▪ Touched in flight
▪ Ball over try-line
▪ Lineout throws

A direct feed will be made available to the Television Match Official, who will be able to use the information to provide feedback to the referee.

The smart ball is already successfully delivering rich insights and data to aid broadcast and digital experiences. Still, recent testing has also demonstrated its potential to assist with officiating decision-making, tackling game-defining decisions, and reducing the focus on referees and the wider match official team in often tricky areas.

🎙 Phil Davies, World Rugby Director of Rugby, said: “The evolution of smart ball technology opens the door to assist match officials in reaching accurate decisions more quickly, removing subjectivity and reducing the chance of error.”

🗣 Dugald Macdonald, Sportable CEO and co-founder, added: “After the successful implementation of smart ball technology to enhance the fan experience through broadcast graphics and digital content, we are looking forward to this next phase and the introduction of our officiating solution that the Smart Ball provides.” 

It is not anticipated that smart ball will feature at Rugby World Cup 2023 from an officiating support perspective, given the emerging nature of the technology and the need to undertake a full review of outcomes before determining the next steps. 


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