Northern Ireland

Irish rugby takes part in goggles trial

Ryan Totten playing rugby
Image caption Ryan Totten's mum Christine said he would now be applying to take part in the World Rugby trial

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has announced that it has been accepted onto the World Rugby goggle trial.

The move enables those who need goggles to apply to World Rugby to see if they can take part in the trial.

If accepted, they must purchase a pair of goggles from the Italian company, Raleri.

The IRFU says "no other eye-wear will be permitted, for health and safety reasons, in contact forms of the game".

Previously, an IRFU ruling banned players of all ages from wearing eyewear of any kind during play.

However, in December it announced it had registered to take part in the World Rugby trial.

Among those who brought the issue to light was Coleraine schoolboy Ryan Totten, who was barred from playing rugby in Ireland because of eyesight problems.

The seven-year-old had been playing tag rugby and had wanted to play the contact version of the game wearing special sports goggles over his glasses.

His mother, Christine, welcomed the IRFU announcement that it would now take part in the goggles trial.

"Ryan definitely would be happier playing with goggles than without, so all that remains for us now is to get him registered to participate in the trial and order the goggles," she said.

"It seems quite a complicated affair getting the goggles.

"Somebody had been in touch and thought they could supply him with goggles, but you're totally dependent on Raleri to be compliant with IRFU regulations."

Mrs Totten said while the goggles were expensive, it was a price worth playing to allow Ryan to play the sport he loved.

"We'd rather not have to pay anything obviously, but we have to do it to get him playing. We've come this far," Mrs Totten said.

Image copyright Christine Totten
Image caption Ryan Totten with former Leinster and Irish U-20 player Ian McKinley, who also found himself barred from playing rugby in Ireland

"They are pretty big. They're more like scuba goggles than rugby goggles, so he may feel a wee bit conspicuous in them, but he's happy enough to go with it.

"He'll be a lot more comfortable when he can at least see what's going on around him."

'Thrilled' by announcement

Former Leinster and Ireland Under-20s player Ian McKinley had campaigned for the IRFU to take part in the trial.

He lost the sight in one of his eyes during a league game in 2010 and initially retired from the game. However, he was able to return with the use of goggles he helped to design and signed for Italian team Viadana in 2014 before moving to Zebre last year.

Ian said he was thrilled with the IRFU announcement.

"These are the goggles that have been available since 2014 and there has not been any incident with them, so they are as safe as can be," he said.

"The goggles are always developing and hopefully with more investment, it will continue to grow. For me they continue to serve a purpose of protecting my functional eye."

He said he would definitely consider a return to Ireland in light of the development.

"Who knows what the future holds. Hopefully I will be back soon," he said.

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