Rugby’s smart ball set to support referee's at the Rugby World Cup - Ruck

Rugby’s smart ball set to support referee’s at the Rugby World Cup

World Rugby is collaborating with Sportable and Gilbert to undertake the world’s first trial of smart ball technology in a live match officiating capacity at the World Rugby U20 Championship in South Africa in June.

If the trial is successful, the balls will be used at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Celebrating 200 years of a sport that was born from innovation, World Rugby is exploring how the emergence of new technology and artificial intelligence can help shape the future of the sport, aiding the flow of the game and taking fan experience to the next level.

The complex art of officiating is one such focus area, and in line with the outcomes of the recent Shape of the Game conference, it is hoped that the Gilbert smart ball will help match officials make accurate decisions more quickly, tackling a number of common, but challenging aspects of law.

These areas include whether a ball has been passed forward, whether the ball is over the try-line, whether the ball has been touched in flight and line, where touch has been found and whether a lineout throw was straight.

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

Assist with decision making on forward passes by measuring the relative velocity of the ball relative to the player as it leaves their hands, so indicating whether the ball has been ‘thrown forward’ in the act of passing.