Northern Ireland

Rugby goggles: IRFU to take part in world trial

Ryan Totten with a rugby ball
Image caption Ryan said he was disappointed that he had been kicked out of rugby because of "the way he was made"

A schoolboy and a professional rugby player have tackled the sport's chiefs and come out of the scrum smiling.

Ryan Totten, 7, and Ian McKinley found themselves barred from playing rugby in Ireland because of eyesight problems.

Both of them were keen to play the sport they love wearing special sports goggles.

But the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), the game's governing body in Ireland, had blown the whistle on that.

An IRFU ruling banned players of all ages from wearing eyewear of any kind during play.

Image caption The IRFU has announced its intention to take part in a trial of sports goggles led by the game's governing body

However, the IRFU has agreed to register to participate in an ongoing World Rugby goggles trial.

For Ryan and Ian, it's a win win situation.

Five years ago, Ian was playing with Leinster and had 11 caps for Ireland under his belt.

But he suffered an injury that eventually led to the loss of sight in one eye and forced him into retirement at just 21 years old.

Goggles would have made all the difference, protecting his sight.

Countries across the world are taking part in the goggles trial, but Ireland and France were not.

Ian joined the Italian team Zebre and was able to play wearing the goggles.

"I'm blind in my left eye, the main function of the goggles is to protect the good eye," he told BBC's Good Morning Ulster.

"I have played nearly 40 professional games with the goggles. There has not been one incident of note and that has been a huge positive."

He is celebrating the IRFU's turnaround.

"It is something that has been campaigned for since 2014. It is a huge relief for me and I can pursue my professional career," he said.

"But it is also great for under-age children in Ireland to be able to play."

For Ryan Totten, it is wonderful news. At just seven years old, he was disappointed when his poor eyesight meant he was unable to play sport without eyewear.

He and his mother, Christine, are celebrating the good news.

"He will be a lot happier playing when he can see where he is going," she said.

"He has had a go at playing without anything but he has not been very comfortable doing that. He is very long sighted - for rugby you need all sorts of vision."

Last August, Ryan and Christine described what a disappointment the goggles ruling was for them.

Her son was "upset, embarrassed and disappointed," Christine Totten said.

World Rugby, the game's global governing body, has been running a separate trial of goggles for players with sight problems at all levels of the game.

In a statement, the IRFU said it had changed its mind.

It said some initial concerns had been addressed by design changes in the goggles.

The IRFU hopes that it will be confirmed as a participant in the goggles trials by World Rugby early in the New Year.

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