All Blacks flank Ardie Savea will wear protective goggles in their next Rugby World Cup match against Canada in Oita on Wednesday.
The move comes after Savea discovered that the vision in his left eye had deteriorated and realised he had to protect his eyesight.
‘A couple of years ago I realised I had bad vision in my left eye. Everything’s kind of blurry,’ Savea said.
‘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.’
In May this year World Rugby approved the use of the goggles at all levels of rugby to allow those who are visually impaired to play the game. The approval came after extensive development and robust trialling of the eyewear.
The type of goggles which Savea will wear have been approved by World Rugby and are designed to be safe for both the player wearing them and those coming into contact with the player.
Savea said when he realised that he could potentially lose his sight if his other eye was damaged it was an easy decision to make.
‘I’ve got my little girl and hopefully future kids and a bigger family, so I want to be able to see. I’m just thinking of the bigger picture and trying to protect my eyes.
‘If by me wearing these inspires them to get some, and for them to try out the game of rugby, then it’s a positive all round for our sport.’
Savea follows in the footsteps of Italian player Ian McKinley, who was the first international player to wear the goggles. McKinley lost sight in his left eye after a freak accident during a game in 2010 when a teammate’s stray sprig perforated his eyeball in a ruck.
Photo: NZ Rugby/Hannah Peters/Getty Images