The Six Nations Championship is one of the oldest surviving rugby traditions — and among the best-attended sporting events in the world.
Long gone are the days of old, wooden scoreboards or watching the game on a fuzzy, low-quality TV. See those gigantic screens at the stadium? The ones at the pub? Even the ones in your house?
No matter where you’re watching the games this weekend, chances are you’ll be doing so with the help of electronics — unless you’re lucky enough to get the best seats in the house, of course.
So, with the tournament coming to a close on Saturday, we thought now would be an excellent time to look at electronics and how they have transformed the game of rugby.
Exciting times for rugby electronics
Electronics have come a long way since the early 2000s when the Rugby Football Union (RFU) introduced Television Match Officials (TMOs) to help make more accurate decisions.
Previously, the TMO had to ask TV producers to rewind coverage to find and analyse specific camera shots. Then in 2015, the RFU welcomed Hawk-Eye’s enhanced video replay into the game for the first time to improve the accuracy of decision making.
But things started to get really interesting in 2019. Both club and international teams began using VR headsets to create simulated rugby scenarios such as lineouts, high balls and first-phase attacks.
During the 2019 Guinness Six Nations Championship, fans had access to never-before-seen insights through new on-screen dynamic stats. These stats provided fans with greater understanding into a range of key in-game events.
In the Rugby World Cup 2019, many players could also be seen wearing tiny monitoring devices on the upper back of their jerseys, which assist coaches with in-game decisions and substitutions, as well as in-depth post-match analysis. These matchbox-sized devices weigh about the same as two AA batteries but are packed with heaps of electronics technology.
The best is yet to come
However, we’ve only just scratched the surface of what electronics can do for the sport. This year, the Six Nations tournament has taken big strides to showcase some more advanced technologies. Take the real-time prediction model, which determines the probability of a successful conversion or penalty kick from anywhere on the pitch.
The machine learning model can be used to compare the real-time success rate prediction of a specific player with the historical success rate for all players. Spectators can then see these stats and a number of other new dynamic statistics on screen which will help fans gain a better understanding of the action, as well as the complexities and nuances of decisions made on and off the pitch.
When it comes to advertising, electronics also make a bold statement. Twickenham Stadium even has an LED-based engagement and advertising system that stretches 0.62 miles around the pitch and middle-tier levels!
An integral part of the game
Rugby is a complex sport. With 30 players on the pitch at any one time, it can be challenging for even the most seasoned referee, coach or fan to keep track of everything that is going on.
But thanks to the technologies mentioned above, fans and coaches alike are now able to better understand the split-second decisions made by the players and referees. Ultimately, this makes for a more accurate and exciting sport.
“Over the past 20 years, rugby has become increasingly open to the use of technology in the game. As a big rugby fan myself, I’m proud to be working in an industry that embraces innovation and plays such an integral part of the sport — for the teams involved as well as the fans.”
– Greg Faughnan, Sales Director at EC Electronics
So, who will win on Saturday? Our bets (or hopes!) are on England. But no matter the final result, one thing is for sure: rugby will continue to welcome the use of electronics to impact every aspect of the sport in a positive way.