Rugby: A sport of innovation
Notable ways rugby has innovated in the past, and how innovation is shaping the game’s future
Since William Webb Ellis first picked up a football and ran with it, rugby has been innovating.
The creativity of rugby players makes the game unpredictable and exciting. Mercurial talents such as Beauden Barrett, Cheslin Kolbe and Finn Russell captivate fans all over the world week to week, and every generation seems to breed a new wave of genius that surpasses what came before them.
The succession of All Black playmakers is a good example. From Carlos Spencer to Dan Carter to Barrett to Richie Mo’unga, the production line of innovative talent in New Zealand’s number 10 jersey continues to delight supporters – unless, of course, you’re backing the opposition.
Coaches too have been hugely influential, with constant tactical innovations that quite literally change the game.
Teams at all levels spend hours developing strategies and set plays designed to trick, deceive and exploit the opposition. Every year, Barbarians sides that feature players from all over the world showcase just how creative players and coaches can be in matches against established test nations.
They create moments that live forever in highlight reels, but these moments don’t come along every day.
Increasingly, innovation off the field is being used as a key strategy in growing the game and improving the way it’s played.
It’s now common for rugby players to be fitted with GPS trackers that monitor their effort fatigue throughout a game. Substitutions are now informed by data that illustrates when a player is tired and should be replaced.
Player welfare has been a focus for innovation in recent years. Rugby is taking an active role in assessing and minimising the impact of head knocks, perhaps spurred on by the long term effects of concussion as seen in leagues such as the NFL.
Impact sensors can now be built into mouthguards, which can paint a more accurate picture of the severity of collisions. Eye tracking technology and saliva testing also show promising signs in their ability to detect a head injury.
There’s hope this technology can be developed even further to create digital passports that showcase the cumulative impact of head knocks for individual players.
Continual TV and camera innovations bring to life different aspects of a rugby game more and more, and allow analysts to break down passages of play to audiences at home.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan featured incredible new camera angles that gave viewers better views of the action on the field than ever before.
Broadcasters BT Sport even launched a competition for fans to come up with their own innovations to add to the viewing experience in 2021.
This is a neat example of fan engagement too, which is a must for maximising sponsorship value, selling merchandise and earning ticketing revenue that keeps teams in business.
Another such example is the growing movement of teams and unions joining .rugby platforms. Borne from the saturation of .com, .org and other generic domains, .rugby provides more alignment and online visibility than ever.
Large governing bodies including World Rugby, Rugby Australia and the South African Rugby Union are leading the way by changing to .rugby domains. This is filtering through to all levels of the game, with competitions, teams and clubs around the world joining together to promote both themselves and the sport as a whole.
Auckland’s Eden rugby club was an early adopter of a .rugby domain. The club has gone from perennial battlers a few years ago to winning the prestigious Gallaher Shield for the first time in its 99-year history. Online engagement and player numbers are at an all-time high, and success on the field has come with it.
With clarity, visibility and relevance in both established and growing markets, .rugby domain names are helping to usher in the next wave of innovation to continue growing the sport.