World Rugby is set to trial the first smart ball during the Under-20 World Cup in South Africa. Created by Sportable and Gilbert, this innovative technology will track the ball’s exact position in 3D and real-time up to 20 times per second, using beacons positioned around the pitch.
The aim is to provide officials with immediate feedback on every kick, pass, and throw. The smart ball will help determine crucial factors such as forward passes, crooked throws at the lineout, tries grounded on the line, and the point at which the ball goes out of bounds from a kick.
All data collected by the ball will be transmitted to the television match official (TMO), who can then provide feedback to the on-field referee. This new technology has the potential to speed up decision-making, reduce stoppage time, and improve the flow of the game.
World Rugby Director of Rugby, Phil Davies, expressed excitement about the potential of the smart ball technology. He emphasized its role in assisting match officials, enhancing accuracy, reducing subjectivity, and minimizing errors. Although this is a trial and the technology is new, it will be put into action at the World Rugby U20 Championship.
In addition to the smart ball, the tournament will also trial a card review system. This system will be utilized when foul play calls are not clear from initial replays. Instead of immediately showing a red card, the referee will have the option to display a yellow card. This allows a second television match official (TMO) to thoroughly review the incident from various angles.
During the player’s 10-minute sin-bin period, the TMO will determine whether the foul play warrants upgrading to a red card. If so, the player will not return to the pitch. However, if the TMO determines that a yellow card is sufficient, the player will rejoin the match after the standard 10-minute sin-bin period.