Super Rugby Pacific: Chiefs introduce ingame player microphones as part of 'fan-centric' coverage

Damian McKenzie in action against Crusaders.
Damian McKenzie in action against Crusaders. Photo credit: Photosport

The Chiefs have agreed to mic up players during Super Rugby Pacific, as part of an attempt to make the product more 'fan-centric'.

Chiefs captain Luke Jacobson and star first-five Damian McKenzie were wired up during their season-opener against the Crusaders - a rematch of last year's final - with edited results replayed on Sky's Breakdown.

One of the sequences showed McKenzie hurting his ribs in a tackle, later aggravating the injury and leaving the field, while most of Jacobson's communication centred around his dialogue in team huddles.

The move is believed to be a first for New Zealand rugby.

"We acknowledge the need to provide a more fan-centric product and the use of player mics is a mechanism that gets fans closer to the action," said Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan.

"We have seen them used in other codes to good effect, and can give fans, coaches and players an insight into what is seen, felt, communicated and actioned on the field." 

Midfielder Quinn Tupaea also wore microphones during the Chiefs' pre-season fixtures in Japan and footage will feature in a planned documentary on the team hoping to improve on their runners-up finish last season.

"We are always looking at ways that we can innovate and how we can share more of what we do with our fans," said Chiefs chief executive Simon Graafhuis.

"The players and coaching group are really supportive of this initiative, and there are plans to extend this innovation to include the Super Rugby Pacific teams in New Zealand." 

Breakdown hosts are enthusiastic about the innovation.

"I love it, fantastic," said All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan. "From a player's perspective, I love seeing stuff like that.

"The clarity of Jacobson's captaincy under pressure - do these four things, 10 out of 10 and not cluttering it - I thought that was brilliant."

Chiefs celebrate a try against Crusaders.
Chiefs celebrate a try against Crusaders. Photo credit: Photosport

Said All Blacks centurion Mils Muliaina: "You get an insight as to what really goes on.

"As commentators, we try and think what they're doing, but unless you're in it and can hear things that are going on in the heat of the battle."

All Blacks great Jeff Wilson reveals this move has been on broadcasters' wishlist for several seasons.

"We've asked for years and haven't managed to get it done," he said. "The fact the Chiefs have now decided to do it is fantastic and I can't be more grateful they've given us the opportunity to see it firsthand.

"It gives the fans at home a chance to get inside what they're thinking and dealing with, and even some of the impacts. Our insights into how they think and approach the game, the conversations... it's remarkable.

"If this doesn't become a bigger part of the game, now that it's started, I don't understand why. Every other sport does this... find a way to get it done."

Join Newshub at 4pm Sunday for live updates of the Chiefs v Brumbies Super Rugby Pacific clash