Potential All Blacks captain slams revolutionary new technology as a ‘step too far’

Colin Newboult
Chiefs centre Anton Lienert-Brown, who was taken off for a HIA against the Crusaders.

Chiefs centre Anton Lienert-Brown, who was taken off for a HIA against the Crusaders.

The new smart mouthguards have received criticism during the opening round of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season.

Designed in an attempt to improve player welfare, it uses Bluetooth technology to transmit data to matchday doctors on the sidelines.

It measures the impact of the hits and indicates to the doctors which players require a head injury assessment, even when there may not have been direct contact to that area.

After being mandated by World Rugby on January 1 for all top level competitions, it is the first weekend of them being in use in Super Rugby.

HIAs in Chiefs-Crusaders clash

During the Chiefs’ 33-29 triumph over the Crusaders, the hosts’ centre Anton Lienert-Brown and visiting lock Quinten Strange were both surprised to be taken off for HIAs.

Lienert-Brown was particularly frustrated after he was ordered from the field in the 75th minute with the game very much in the balance.

‘Saders captain Scott Barrett, who is in line for the role as All Blacks skipper, was asked about the mouthguards afterwards and admitted that he was not a fan.

“Honestly, I think it’s probably a step too far,” Barrett told reporters. “For a player, when you’re getting dragged and you’re looking round for what actually happened.

“Obviously we want player welfare, and that’s paramount, but I think if you’re influencing the game when key players are going off and they don’t know what for, I think that can be frustrating for a player. So I think there needs to be a happy medium somewhere within it.

“Potentially it could be trialled within training.”

Crusaders head coach Rob Penney also had this say on the mouthguards but he was not as critical as Barrett, understanding that the authorities are looking to protect the players.

“They’re trying to bed in their technology, and it’s going global whether we like it or not, we’ve just got to live with it,” he said.

“And it’s for the best interests of the player as well, which is a thing we obviously have a duty of care to pursue. We’ll just get on with it and deal with the repercussions as they unfold.”

Chiefs view

Clayton McMillan echoed Penney’s views with player welfare paramount for the Chiefs head coach.

“At the end of the day, this is another mechanism that we can use to ensure that, where we can, we’re protecting our players in a pretty physical game,” McMillan said.

“There’s going to be instances like tonight that occur all through the season, but if it means that we’re looking after players, then so be it.”

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