How tech is playing a key role in Sale Sharks' success
With the margins for success now so fine in professional rugby, Sale Sharks along with many other elite level sides have fully embraced the use of technology in their day-to-day operations as they look to build on a promising first half of the season.
The club employs three full-time analysts to provide expertise, knowledge and real-time data using the latest sporting technology, both in training and during matches.
Rob Heald is in his sixth season with the club. After completing a sports science degree at Nottingham Trent University, he was given an internship opportunity with Sale Sharks in the 2013 season, and now holds the position of Assistant Performance Analyst.
“The type and use of technology vary depending on if it’s a training session or a live game” said Rob. “Every training session is filmed, and we make use of Sony hand cameras, allowing us to film in areas traditionally difficult to gain access, such as inside the scrums and above shots from line outs.
“We are then able to quickly cut specific training film for the coaches to review and assess. The clips are then uploaded straight to the coaches’ MacBooks, with people like Dorian West our forwards coach reviewing scrums, and Mike Forshaw analysing the backs and looking at things like awareness and positioning.
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“In a live match, we use Sportscode to analyse performance, using real-time data and statistics such as tackles made, passes and location of the line-out passes. Our coaches prefer team-based statistics rather than for individual players in a match, so that’s where we put all our focus in a live-game.
“All players are equipped with GPS trackers in a match which are fitted in their shirts, helping to analyse the total distance covered. Some also wear heart rate monitors and are closely observed by our strength and conditioning team.
“The game film is uploaded the night of a match and sent directly to the players electronic devices, so they can do their own post-match analysis and ready for the team review.
Steve Diamond, Director of Rugby at Sale Sharks, said: “Our coaches, including myself, are able to make real-time decisions in a match based on the data the technology provides us with.
“We have an excellent communication set-up between analysts and coaches, which is so important in professional rugby today, as the data communicated to us in a live game allows us to make the best possible decisions for the team.”
Sale are currently in the top half of the Gallagher Premier League and pushing for a top-four finish, whilst also playing European rugby this season with an upcoming quarter-final clash against Connacht.