Launched in 2017 by The Change Foundation, Visually Impaired (VI) rugby is now being enjoyed in a growing number of countries, with established programmes in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Japan.
At an international level the sport’s stocks are also rising, in the wake of the sport's first ever international test match between the New Zealand Blind Rugby Team and Blind Lions during the 2017 Lions Tour of New Zealand. Other international matches have taken place since, including a series between England and Japan coinciding with the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The Change Foundation Head of Business Development and VI Rugby Ambassador Alex Bassan says the rapid growth of the sport and the passion shown by its supporters means it won't be too long before players have their very own VI Rugby World Cup.
"VI Rugby has proven very popular amongst the visually impaired community,” he says.
“With lineouts, scrums, running, passing and of course kicking skills being part of the game, it's the first time visually impaired players can play a real version of the game so many of us love. Whilst we have a long way to go, we’re making good progress towards a VI Rugby World Cup and would love to see our sport at the Paralympics".
Mr Roberts said introducing Visually Impaired Rugby at the Paralympic Games would be a logical next step for the International Paralympic Committee.
“Rugby 7s is a hit at the Olympic Games and Wheelchair Rugby is a spectacular watch at the Paralympics. Introducing VI Rugby to the Paralympic Games would be popular with fans and provide opportunities for people with visual impairments to play the sport they love at the highest level.”
Mr Roberts says the ‘Bring Visually Impaired Rugby to the Paralympic Games’ campaign will generate support and awareness, ahead of a potential application to have the sport included in a future Paralympic Games. Packaworld has been involved in VI Rugby since its inception as the designers and suppliers of a special model of its portable Rugby Packaposts which are specifically designed for the sport.
The earliest it could be included according to International Paralympic Committee rules would be the Los Angeles 2028 or Brisbane 2032 Paralympic Games.
Watch: VI Rugby action from the world's first ever test match in 2017 and Japan v England 2019
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