Caption: A conversion during the first Blind Rugby International. Photos: PACKAWORLD.
The world’s first blind rugby international was played at QBE Stadium in Auckland today, featuring another world-first: truly portable full-size rugby posts.
Played between the Blind Lions and New Zealand Blind Rugby in the leadup to the British and Irish Lions tour finale at Eden Park, the match finished 31-0 as glimpses of brilliance from the New Zealanders were overpowered by the Blind Lions’ experience and fitness.
Inflatable ‘Rugby Packaposts’ meet World Rugby size guidelines, and were produced by New Zealand sporting products supplier Packaworld International to overcome challenges posed by conventional rugby posts, which are usually made of wood, steel or aluminium.
Blind rugby is a new sport developed by UK organisation The Change Foundation to make rugby more accessible to people with vision impairments. It is based on touch rugby, but includes scrums, lineouts and conversion kicks.
The sport is played on a 70m x 50m field, much smaller than a conventional 100m x 70m rugby pitch. As rugby posts cannot be easily moved, this led to a conundrum over how to provide a high-quality playing experience closely resembling the original game, but played on a much smaller pitch. The issue was resolved by newly created Rugby Packaposts.
Blind Sport New Zealand National Manager and member of the New Zealand Blind Rugby squad Dan Shepherd said the deciding factors in selecting Rugby Packaposts included portability, safety and cost.
“These posts have already revolutionised the game, and they are going to be a massive help to us in growing the new sport of blind rugby. With just one set of posts, we can bring the game to anywhere in the country with minimal setup cost”, Mr Shepherd said.
“When developing blind rugby with The Change Foundation, we were looking for ways the player experience could be improved and brought closer to mainstream rugby. The first international has shown what’s possible and I don’t think another product could have delivered what we needed.”
Packaworld CEO Peter Roberts said he was delighted to have the opportunity to work with Blind Sport New Zealand and The Change Foundation to find the best way to help people with vision impairments to experience the game of rugby.
“It’s a real joy to be able to help sports develop, and to give people who might not otherwise have opportunities to compete at this level the chance to represent their countries.”
Mr Roberts said the idea for portable full-size rugby posts was conceived after conversations with rugby programmes in the USA about the difficulty of growing the sport in a country with few established rugby facilities.
Two other tests will feature in the test series, to be played on 8 and 9 July at Grammar TEC Rugby Club. Blind rugby was officially launched on 5 July at an evening event at Dans le Noir restaurant in Auckland’s Rydges Hotel, where diners were served in darkness for a different sensory experience.