BEPPU, OITA PREF. – All Blacks loose forward Ardie Savea will become the first player to wear goggles at a Rugby World Cup as he battles vision problems that have left him fearful of going blind.
The bruising New Zealand back-rower, a key player for the defending champion, was not known to have had sight problems, but he said the vision in his left eye was blurred and deteriorating.
Against Canada on Wednesday, Savea will wear goggles, which were approved by World Rugby earlier this year to allow people who are visually impaired to play the game.
“A couple of years ago I realized I had bad vision in my left eye. Everything’s kind of blurry,” he said. “I told All Blacks doctor Tony Page that it was getting worse and now we’re doing something about it.
“Doc notified me that World Rugby had some goggles that were approved and everyone has been really supportive. In terms of vision and seeing, it’s pretty sweet, and it’s now just a matter of getting used to them.”
The goggles are designed to be safe for both the wearer and those coming into contact with him. Italy’s Ian McKinley, who is blind in one eye, was the first player to wear them at the international level.
Savea said it was an easy decision to make when he realized that he could potentially lose his sight if his other eye was damaged.
“Obviously if this right eye goes, then I’m maybe, potentially blind,” Savea said. “I’ve got my little girl and hopefully future kids and a bigger family, so I want to be able to see.
“I’m just thinking of the bigger picture and trying to protect my eyes.”
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said Savea did not wear contact lenses and that the goggles were purely for protection, not as a vision aid.