Gregor Townsend’s verdict adds to mounting concerns over smart mouthguards

David Skippers
Six Nations: Scotland coach Gregor Townsend

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend ahead of the clash with Australia in 2022.

Scotland boss Gregor Townsend is concerned about the implementation of smart mouthguards after he lost a player for the second successive Six Nations Test for a head injury assessment triggered by the new technology.

This year’s tournament is the first time that elite male players have been fitted with an ‘instrumented’ mouthguard, which sends alerts whenever a ‘head acceleration event’ with G-force that exceeds 70g and 4,000 radians per second squared is detected.

Scotland impacted more than others

The Scots have been the most impacted by the mouthguards in the Six Nations so far, after hooker George Turner went off for an HIA in the first half of the clash with France at Murrayfield on February 10, while tighthead prop Zander Fagerson – who was visibly puzzled as he was forced off the field – had to do the same during the early stages of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup victory over England.

Both players were ruled fit to return to the playing field.

When asked after the clash with England if Fagerson’s exit from the pitch was triggered by his mouthguard, Townsend replied: “Yes, it was and I saw the tackle again, just a normal tackle.

“I think we have to really watch what we’re doing here by trusting technology that’s not been proven.

“What we’ve been doing over the last few years is making sure that any symptoms that are seen, by a number of people, can flag up whether someone goes off for an HIA.

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“Zander was taken off for 10 minutes after what looked like a normal tackle, but there was a spike alert from the mouthguard.

“I know in Super Rugby there were a couple of alerts, and players were saying, ‘there’s nothing wrong here, I’ve just made a tackle’, so we’ve got to watch that because you don’t want to be taking our best players off the field for 10 minutes if there are no issues around concussion.

“We want to protect our players, that’s for certain, but there’s a bit more work to do before this technology is correct.”

Townsend was also asked if he felt the technology had been rushed into top-level rugby and said: “It’s a new thing in the Six Nations, and it’s not been used at club level prior to the Six Nations.

“I’d hope they’d learn from today’s incident, and obviously, George Turner went off for 10 minutes in the previous game.

‘Must make sure it’s as close to accurate as possible’

“We need to make sure it’s as close to accurate as possible. That’s what we want.

“We have lots of eyes watching and players are now very good at saying ‘I’ve had a head injury here, I have to go off’.

“I think we just need to do a bit more work here before we move on.”

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