Imagine charging into the action of the rugby field from the comfort of your home, through the power of a device. This is all part of the training process for the Wallabies, proving that there’s a lot more that goes into rugby than what you see on the field. In between rigorous physical training and strategy sessions, the team has been taking advantage of innovative VR technology to better understand the game and how they can improve. We spoke to Michael Cheika, Head Coach of the Wallabies, to learn more about how technology is improving their game.
Game review has long been an important part of coaching rugby players, but Cheika explains that the process has historically been an individual experience. That’s why Vodafone has teamed up with the Wallabies through our sponsorship of Super Rugby to provide an innovative solution, using Samsung Gear VR headsets. VR tech allows the team to take on a different approach, working together instead to develop new strategies using this training tool.
“We engaged with StartVR and Vodafone to build a more-collaborative game review tool which would allow players to assemble in groups and fully immerse themselves in the action using Samsung Gear VR headsets,” Cheika says.
“By stitching four simultaneous angles of footage together, we were able to create an immersive experience where players can implant themselves back on the field and rotate to view different perspectives of on-field scenarios, communicating with each other in real-time to improve cohesion.”
This means the players can replay a scene and view it from all angles, reading the game and analysing how each player can improve their positioning. The technology enables a more interactive game review process, and Cheika says the players have embraced this innovation.
“The players have really taken to [using the VR tech], finding it an enjoyable and useful experience. This in turn has driven more engagement in match preview and review, which results in complete clarity in game strategy.”
But the tech doesn’t stop there – it’s started making its way into all parts of the game over the past couple of years. Some IoT devices have been useful for recording game data (like location on pitch and player tackles), while others help monitor fitness during training. Cheika explains that The Wallabies use tech to get a full picture of each individual player’s health and any improvements that can be made.
“We use quite a lot of wearable devices during training and test matches including heart rate monitors, GPS devices to measure distances run, accelerations and impacts, and microphones for capturing player audio,” Cheika says.
“Given the heavy demands on players’ bodies, sleep patterns are also monitored to ensure they are getting sufficient rest. Utilising data to drive decision making is something that is a key pillar in our environment.”
Besides using tech, the Wallabies have also been prepping the good old-fashioned way for the Bledisloe Cup, Rugby Championship Tests and their End Of Year Tour – completing training camps in Newcastle, Cessnock and locally in the players’ home states over the past couple of months.
“Throughout this period, we have worked on building their fitness levels as well as working on various areas of our game. It has been very positive and we are excited about the challenges ahead into the Rugby Championship.”
The Wallabies are charging into a tech-powered future and embracing the evolution of sport with the development of new training techniques. So as new tools are constantly becoming available and implemented, the real question is… what’s next for the future of rugby?
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