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World Rugby to trial smart balls

A trial for the first smart ball will take place at the Under 20 World Cup in South Africa.

The technology, developed by Sportable and Gilbert, will track the exact position of the ball in 3D and in real-time up to 20 times a second, with beacons positioned around the pitch.

World Rugby say it will provide officials with "immediate feedback" on "every kick, pass and throw".

The tournament in June will also trial a card review system.

Factors the smart ball will help officials decide include forward passes, crooked throws at the line-out, tries grounded on the line and at which point touch is found from a kick.

The data from the ball will be fed to the television match official, who can feed back to the on-field referee.

World Rugby director of rugby Phil Davies said: "A fast game is a good game, and it is right that we explore technology that has the potential to help aid the flow of the game, reduce stoppage time and speed up match official decision-making.

"Rugby refereeing is perhaps the most difficult officiating job in sport.

"The evolution of smart ball technology opens the door to assist match officials in reaching accurate decisions more quickly, removing subjectivity and reducing the chance of error. While this is a trial and the technology is new, we are excited about its potential and look forward to seeing it in action at the World Rugby U20 Championship."

Meanwhile, the card review process, also on trial at the tournament, would only be used in-game when a foul play call is not clear from initial replays.

In that situation, instead of showing a straight red, a referee would have the option to show a yellow card that gives a second television match official (TMO) a chance to have a detailed look at the incident with all angles available.

With the player in the sin-bin for 10 minutes the TMO would decide if the foul play warrants being upgraded to a red card, in which case the player would not return to the pitch.

If the TMO believes it is a yellow card only, then the player would return to the match after the usual 10 minutes in the sin-bin.

The change would not take away referees' ability to red card a player. A clear on-field red would remain as such.

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