Prohibition of protective eyewear in rugby

For safety reasons, World Rugby and IRFU regulations forbid the wearing of eyewear on the field of play.
In recent years World Rugby has decided to explore the safety of allowing players to wear goggles

on field and are conducting a trial in relation to the issue. 
The IRFU declined to be part of this trial, based on safety concerns.
Clubs routinely receive queries on the wearing of protective eyewear in rugby. 
As a result, the IRFU has developed a Q&A document which aims to assist clubs, volunteers, coaches, players and parents to understand the issue, the steps the IRFU have taken in relation to the trial, and to underline that the IRFU must prioritise safety.

The Q&A has been developed by the IRFU and led by Scott Walker, Director of Rugby Development and Dr Rod McLoughlin Head of Medical Service

Q&A – IRFU and Eyewear/Goggles

1. Has the IRFU ever allowed people to wear glasses or goggles on the field of play?

a. No, for health and safety reasons it has never been permissible to wear eyewear of any variety whilst playing rugby in Ireland.

2. What is the World Rugby goggles trial?

a. World Rugby is conducting a trial to test the safety of goggles, specifically for those who require corrective lenses/eyewear.

b. The trial covers one goggle (manufactured by Raleri Italy) in one size.

c. The trial was due to be completed in May 2015 but has been extended on two occasions and is now due to be completed in late 2016.

d. Players can only wear goggles if they are members of a union that is partaking in the trial, they register for the trial and they wear the Raleri trial goggles.

3. Why has the IRFU decided not to participate in the trial?

a. To establish if the IRFU should participate in the trial, the Medical Committee of the IRFU sought independent medical advice from one of Ireland’s leading ophthalmic surgeons. Based on this advice it was decided that Ireland would not participate in the trial, as to do so would potentially jeopardise the health and safety of those playing our game. Therefore, the wearing of eyewear on the field of play continues to be prohibited.

4. Is Ireland the only country not to participate in the trial?

a. No, the IRFU, the English RFU and the French Rugby Federation (amongst others) are not participating in the World Rugby trial. A number of unions are participating (Scotland and Italy are two). 
The IRFU is responsible for the welfare of all those playing the game in Ireland and the decision not to participate was based on expert medical opinion received in Ireland.

5. What is the current status of this trial?

a. The trial has been extended until late 2016. As the trial has taken longer than initially planned the IRFU has sought trial data from World Rugby and will present this information to medical experts to see if it addresses the concerns initially raised in relation to the trial.

b. The IRFU will not seek to influence the advice from these independent experts and will respect any finding or recommendation they make.

6. What does the IRFU say to the players affected by this issue, and their parents?

a. The IRFU strives to make our game as inclusive as possible, and understands the frustration of players and parents in relation to this issue. However, it must be accepted that the number one priority of every sport must be health and safety. Rugby, as with all physical sports, will not be available to everyone, for various reasons, and until such time that medics are satisfied that health and safety is not compromised the IRFU are unable to allow players to wear goggles. It is worth remembering that the IRFU have not brought in any new restrictions on those who require eyewear – it has never been permissible to use eyewear on the field of play.

7. What advice does the IRFU have for any coach/parent/player or referees that may be tempted to allow people to play with goggles?

a. Under existing World Rugby regulations, and IRFU policy, players are not permitted to use goggle/eyewear when playing. Injury as a result of a player wearing goggles could have far reaching and difficult personal consequences for the individuals involved as well as reputational, insurance, financial and legal consequences for the club/school and the individuals in question.

8. With a number of people calling on the IRFU to enter the trial, will it now do so?

a. As the governing body for rugby in Ireland the IRFU has a duty of care and a moral and ethical responsibility to do everything possible to protect against and mitigate player risk or injury. The IRFU will work with World Rugby to review the trial data to-date and will only enter the trial if based on the review of the trial data by independent medical professionals that it is deemed medically safe to do so.

9. If World Rugby complete the trial and subsequently allow goggles to be worn will the IRFU follow this regulation?

a. Yes, the IRFU observes all World Rugby regulations, laws and policies. However, it is important that clubs, players and parents are clear that even if such a situation were to occur, the permitted World Rugby equipment would be limited to the trial goggle (manufactured by Raleri Italy) and all other goggles/eyewear would continue to be prohibited.

10. Is there any rugby game that those requiring eyewear can participate in?

a. Yes, the restriction in relation to the wearing of goggles applies to the contact game only. Therefore, goggles may be worn in non-contact rugby such as Leprechaun, Tag and Touch.


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