Women's Six Nations becomes first elite international to trial smart ball

Monday, April 12, 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

The Women’s Six Nations Championship saw smart ball technology trialled for the first time in an international Test match, when England romped to a 52-10 victory over Scotland in the opening match of the tournament on 3rd April.

The match, which took place in Doncaster, saw the Gilbert x Sportable smart ball used for the first time in elite competition, having previously been used at the inaugural RugbyX tournament at The O2 in London in 2019.

Each ball used in the match is embedded with a tracking chip which captures every movement on the pitch in real-time, providing a range of new stats and analysis such as the speed of passes and the hang-time and distance of kicks.

During the first trial, the stats were privately presented to teams as part of their post-match review, however in further phases of the trial, it is envisaged that data will be presented in on-screen graphics, giving fans access to the insights.

“Despite all the challenges of 2021 we’ve been delighted to introduce a series of firsts for this Women’s Six Nations Championship,” said Ben Morel, CEO, Six Nations.

“We are constantly looking to break boundaries, take rugby to a new level and to introduce innovative tools which we believe will enhance the development of the game as a whole and allow players and coaches to dial into intricate analysis.”

Technology developer Sportable, meanwhile, says the opportunity provides a chance to test for future capabilities, such as notifying the referee directly when the ball detects a forward pass, or when it has gone into touch.