World Rugby has approved a game-changing amendment to the laws of the game that will enable the wearing of goggles at all levels of the game, reaffirming the sport’s commitment to inclusivity.
In line with the international federation’s vision of ‘a sport for all’, approval by Council follows a comprehensive law trial, launched in 2014 after World Rugby identified the need to develop a product that paves the way for greater participation in a safe environment.
In partnership with Italy-based eyewear specialists Raleri, a design was developed to facilitate the inclusion of prescription lenses beyond contact lenses into a device that does not increase the risk of injury to the wearer or to players coming into contact with the wearer.
The successful trial attracted more than 2,000 registrants. The detailed feedback from participants in the trial allowed World Rugby to develop an evidence-based performance specification in partnership with the University of Ulster and the University of Bradford in the UK to refine the design of the goggles.
The trial has enabled those with limited or no sight in one eye to participate in the sport more comfortably, as demonstrated by the inspiring story of Italy international Ian McKinley, who became the first wearer of goggles in a senior international. He welcomed the announcement via a short video message.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The approval of this law amendment is a very significant advancement for rugby and for contact sport, and as someone who championed the project from its inception, I am delighted to see goggles become enshrined within our laws.
"This is a strong demonstration of World Rugby’s commitment to game innovation and player welfare, but also our mission to making rugby a more accessible and inclusive sport at all levels."
Reflecting its commitment to advances in player welfare, the World Rugby Council has also approved a Law 4 trial to enable the assessment of headgear devices which, according to the manufacturers, have been designed to achieve specific, quantifiable medical advances, while aligning with Law 4 and Regulation 12 criteria.
Recognising the importance of assessing the evolution of technologies designed to manage and improve player welfare, trials will be permitted subject to strict criteria, including detailed evaluation by World Rugby, safety and independent test house assessment and shared trial research.
While headgear is permitted in law on the basis that it does not cause harm to the wearer or an opponent, current research does not indicate a concussion prevention benefit and manufacturers should not make such claims.