During a conference on the theme of technological progress at the service of sport, Stade Toulouse manager Ugo Mola confided that the data indicated that he had to eliminate Romain Ntamack in the final of the Top 14. Needless to recall the decisive action of the semi opening a few seconds before the end of the match…
This is not the time for trial, but for observation. Data is now an integral part of world rugby, and you’d have to be damned archaic to go back to these technological advances that have perfected an already highly cerebral sport. No doubt about that. Data specialists can now be found in all clubs, and the staff of the major rugby nations are passionate about it. GPS, body fat index sensors, all these tools that emerged in rugby in the 2000s took longer to be adopted in France.
In 2018, former coach (2012-2015) Philippe Saint-André confirmed: “We were a bit the last to adapt to new technologies. Why? Because it entails additional costs. For a team of 32 players you have to buy 32 GPSs. If you want to use this GPS properly, you need a full employee need time to retrieve and use the data. All this represents money and it was not the priority of the club presidents ten years ago. The Anglo-Saxons and the New Zealanders have done that. “So we have been one step ahead. It has now become standard practice.”
Fabien Galthié took charge of the France XV in 2019 and has since made extensive use of data to build his squad and move the Blues forward. In interview given to Midi Olympique A few weeks ago, navigator Thomas Coville, friend of the former scrum half, testified: “He really started training his staff on physical preparation and data in particular, which made a big impression on me. As a sailor I use data a lot and I had many topics of discussion with him about that.”
Mola: “All the psychics say we have to take it out” (Ntamack)
During the day its back-to-school conferenceFabien Galthié once again chose the numbers to try to explain the French XV’s early elimination in the World Cup quarter-final. This arithmetic justification seems logical and concrete, but has irritated more than one person, starting with theformer international Richard Dourtheon the set of the CRC (Canal Rugby Club): “Everyone loves it, it’s perfect, but they avoid all the points that really interest us: why did we lose? Why were there so many injuries? He smokes everyone with his credentials and I don’t think that’s what respecting people who love rugby is about.”
So should we be wary of this famous data? On the occasion of a conference organized in Agen and more specifically in the context of the Rencontres Michel-Serres, manager of the Stade Toulouse Ugo Mola, and former Agen of Usap coach Christian Lanta, discussed the topics of data and artificial intelligence in sports. Mola, who has won four titles with Toulouse since taking charge of the athlete, reaffirmed the interest of new technologies, while specifying that they were tools and not limitations: “We have physical, medical data and performance indicators, but these are just decision aids. We cannot forget the context in which we use them.”
Isn’t the risk of data that a coach uses it to absolve himself if he fails?
Especially in the Top 14 final, where the manager trusted that all indicators advised him to coach Romain Ntamack, ultimately the great hero of June 17 after an extraordinary drive in the defense of La Rochelle: “In the Top 14 final against La Rochelle, Ntamack has been countering for ten minutes. He is playing his 31st match of the season. All indicators say he should be eliminated. But when he scores the winning try in the 78th minute he reached his absolute maximum speed of the season!” So the numbers don’t explain everything… And the Toulouse manager concluded as a warning: “These tools should take the place of the tool. Isn’t the risk of data that a coach uses it to absolve himself if he fails?”