The tournament would be the Japan Blind Rugby team’s first international, and they were looking forward to it.
“Our players are not very big, but they are very quick. We have young players and they are active and full of energy.”
Ms Matsui said teamwork and communication were particularly important in visually impaired rugby, which features its own unique ruleset.
Played on a shortened 70m x 50m field between teams of seven players, plus subs, the rules are similar to touch rugby, but with the addition of scrums, lineouts and conversion kicks. Portable rugby posts developed by Packaworld International are used to ensure the safety of visually impaired players and to enable posts to be easily moved and positioned to suit the shorter dimensions of a visually impaired rugby pitch.
Ms Matsui said the Japanese team had used the Rugby Packaposts for the first time during a training camp in July. The experience gave the players the chance to practise conversions using the regulation posts for visually impaired rugby that will be used during the test series.
Visually impaired rugby was new to Japan but had been steadily gaining support, Ms Matsui said. Promotion of the sport began in January and the Japan Blind Rugby Association was formed in April.
“I am pleased that we have the national team now, it is all happening fast. The visually impaired rugby matches against England are being held during the Rugby World Cup, between the round robins and semi-finals, so our matches will attract a lot of people.”
Ms Matsui said it was “inspiring” to see the sport’s potential to engage visually impaired people in physical activity at all levels, and across age groups.
“Blind rugby is a good sport for the visually impaired. I also teach small children at a school for the blind and I thought that it was impossible for them to catch a ball. But now I know that it is possible. The ability of the visually impaired is unlimited.”
Visually impaired rugby was originally developed in the UK by charity organisation The Change Foundation.
The Foundation’s Head of Training and Development Alex Bassan said the international visually impaired rugby series in Japan would help raise awareness of the sport and opportunities for visually impaired people globally.
He said Packaworld had played an important role in growing the sport through design and provision of portable Rugby Packaposts and its dedication to working closely with the blind and visually impaired community.
The first match of the Japan Blind Rugby vs England VI Roses international series will be held at a soon-to-be-confirmed venue in Tokyo on 13 October. Kumagaya Sports Culture Park – a Rugby World Cup venue – will host the second and third matches on 14 October.
The three-match series in Japan comes two years after the world’s first international visually impaired rugby test match, between the New Zealand Blind Rugby Team and the Blind Lions. That series, won by the Blind Lions, coincided with the 2017 Lions tour of New Zealand.
International Blind Rugby Series: Japan vs England (Blind Rugby Japan vs England VI Roses), Japan 2019