Super Rugby Pacific: 'Smart' mouthguard protocols tweaked after opening-week gremlins

Super Rugby Pacific has tweaked protocols around the use of 'smart' mouthguards to detect possible concussion impact.

The 2024 season-opener - a rematch of last year's final between the Crusaders and Chiefs - was marred by frustration over the new technology, designed to help sidelined medical staff monitor potential headknocks among players.

Crusaders lock Quentin Strage and Chiefs midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown were both pulled from the field for head checks, after phantom readings. Chiefs midfielder Quinn Tupaea was also taken from the field for an assessment, which he passed, but he was replaced regardless.

Quinn Tupaea is escorted from the field for a head check against the Crusaders.
Quinn Tupaea is escorted from the field for a head check against the Crusaders. Photo credit: Photosport

Lienert-Brown's exit came in the dying seconds, with the Chiefs clinging desperately to a narrow lead. Both he and Strange were cleared, and the delayed readings apparently resulted from collisions earlier in the game.

"Like anything in life, when something's new, you can't expect it to be perfect," reflected Lienert-Brown. "We all know that.

"Like I said, as a competitor, it just happened to be that moment at that time of the game that made it frustrating, but it definitely doesn't mean that I don't support it. They've already come out and said that they will make adjustments."

Eight such readings occurred over the opening weekend of games, but organisers have changed the rules for this week's 'Super Round' at Melbourne.

Players will not be summoned off the field for a mandatory head check, but will initially be assessed by medical staff on the field. If they fail, they will leave the field - if they pass, they will be further assessed at the next halftime or fulltime break.

World Rugby will carry out further tests on the data-transfer process during round three, with a view to restoring automatic alerts thereafter. 

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