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Thursday May 28, 2020

WATCH: Virtual crowd success in NRL could be an idea for Union’s return

With rugby union set to resume in two weeks with New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, there are certain things that it can learn from the sports that have already resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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The competition between New Zealand’s five franchises will be behind closed doors, as are the other competitions that are already being played.

The most high-profile return was the Bundesliga in Germany, which has already provided three rounds of football. Rugby league’s NRL also made its comeback today, with the Parramatta Eels overcoming the Brisbane Broncos, but one of the main talking points of the game was the virtual crowd that accompanied the play.

One thing that has been frequently commented on since football’s return is the eerie atmosphere for TV viewers created by the empty stadiums. The echoing sound of players’ voices is far from what viewers are used to, so that problem has been alleviated by the NRL by using a catalogue of sounds from past matches.

Virtual crowd example:

While an idea like this would have been met with scepticism, with fears that it would sound nothing more than a recycled video game track, it was far more authentic in practice, adroitly replicating the swells and dips in the intensity of the crowd to match the action in the game.

The idea has been met by overwhelming positivity by fans after game one of the NRL’s return, and this could well be adopted by other sports.

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Having forerunners such as the Bundesliga and the NRL provides Super Rugby Aotearoa the opportunity to see what is a success and what is not before the season starts on June 13th. The consensus seems to be that the virtual crowd is an idea worth looking into.

After weeks of no action, many fans will want a return of rugby, or any sport, in any form. But with no sign as to when fans will be allowed to flock to stadiums again amid the pandemic, the virtual crowd could make viewing far more palatable and closer to what it used to be.

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Truth be told, not everyone enjoyed it.

What do you think? The way forward for rugby in the next few months? Let us know in the comments below

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