Rugby embraces eyewear as design makes World Cup debut

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New Zealand’s loose forward Ardie Savea will take to the field in the Rugby Union World Cup wearing a pair of specially designed goggles, making him the first to do so in the international tournament’s history.

The player discovered several years ago that the vision in his left eye was deteriorating, and decided to wear the goggles to protect his vision – potentially saving him from losing his sight in the eye altogether.

Until now the use of goggles was forbidden in contact rugby games, although in an effort to allow people who need to wear corrective lenses to do so safely while playing, the International Rugby Board commissioned Italian eyewear designers Raleri to develop specific ‘Rugby Goggles’.

The design brief is very specific, given that the equipment has to protect the wearer and the other players, while taking into account the field of view and conditions rugby is played in – such as the humid stadiums of Japan where the 2019 Rugby Union World Cup is being played out.

The goggles had to be designed so that the external surface is a continuous curve in all directions. To align with the curvature of the head, the horizontal radius of curvature of the goggle needed to be ‘between 70-90mm’, while no feature on the outward surface of the goggles (that an opponent might be expected to come into contact with) can have a radius of curvature less than 12mm.


It’s a tricky design to create, given that the goggles need to be designed to distribute forces around the wearer’s face – in a big tackle, there is a lot of force to be distributed.

The visual angles of the design are based on existing standards for personal eye protection from other sports including squash and racquetball, and ski goggles.

Manufacturer of Rugby Goggles Raleri has a huge amount of experience in designing goggles for motorsport, horse racing and skiing, and it already had a technologies to help reduce fogging and meet the impact tests.

For Savea, he heads into the tournament as both a pioneer and an inspiration, with such a visible figure potentially helping inspire visually-impaired children to take up the game.

Savea said: “A couple of years ago I realised I had bad vision in my left eye. Everything’s kind of blurry. I told All Blacks Doctor Tony Page that it was getting worse and now we’re doing something about it. Doc notified me that World Rugby had some goggles that were approved and everyone has been really supportive.

“In terms of vision and seeing, it’s pretty sweet, and it’s now just a matter of getting used to them.”

“Humidity at up to 90 per cent, 20C or so, and hard All Blacks training, and he’s done pretty well,” said the All Blacks team doctor Tony Page wen asked about how Savea was managing with the goggles. “It’s great to see someone like Ardie putting them on and being proud of it.”

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