• Safety, inclusion and enjoyment at the heart of guidelines
  • Actions being implemented at Rugby World Cup 2023
  • Portugal will wear alternative kit versus Wales on 16 September to support the cause
  • Guidelines to become policy for World Rugby tournaments from 2025
  • Ambition to deliver a more inclusive game and rugby experience for all

As the global rugby family eagerly awaits the Rugby World Cup 2023 kick off on 8 September, just two days earlier many of them - players, fans, referees, coaches or officials - will also be aware of Colour Blind Awareness Day.

An estimated 300 million people live with some form of colour vision deficiency (CVD) which can impact their day to day life in a variety of ways through being unable to see or differentiate certain colour combinations. Through greater awareness of the challenges faced by those with CVD and taking some simple steps to address these, those with CVD can have a more positive experience when it comes to taking part in or watching rugby.

From a coaching perspective, it is essential for those involved to be able to differentiate colours in some way, be it training cones, bibs or clothing, while from a player welfare perspective, the ability of a player or match official to quickly identify those on the field of play is a significant safety consideration, especially in an injury or foul play situation.

In September 2021, World Rugby published its Colour Blindness in Rugby guidelines which were developed in collaboration with Colour Blind Awareness (CBA), a non-profit organisation that raises awareness of the needs of colour blind people in the community. Since then, World Rugby has been taking steps to implement its own guidance across its various activities and events.

For Rugby World Cup 2023, World Rugby has worked closely with the Participating Unions and CBA to encourage certain kit combinations in an effort to avoid kit ‘clashes’ - where kit colours appear too similar to colour blind people due to a lack of sufficient colour contrast or designs - where possible while being mindful of manufacturing and commercial considerations.

In some rare cases, an alternate kit may still pose a challenge if there is not enough colour or design differential. Such was the possibility for the Portugal v Wales Group C encounter on 16 September in Nice where the Welsh alternate kit (black) would have clashed with Portugal's primary kit (dark red). In a move applauded by World Rugby as a positive display of the sport’s values and support for inclusivity, both Portugal and Wales have confirmed they will each wear their alternative kit in support of the cause. Other participating teams have also committed to show their support by wearing alternate jerseys for certain games including Georgia, Ireland, Tonga and South Africa.

Kit testing was undertaken alongside broadcast kit testing early in 2023 on the RWC 2023 Primary and Alternate kits of each team plus the match officials kits to ensure maximum contrast between the kits of both teams and match officials. In some instances preferred kit combinations were changed due to perceived lack of contrast for broadcast reasons for all viewers.

With player welfare in mind, kits were also considered not just from the perspective of fans watching on TV or in the stadium but also from the perspective of any colour blind players and match officials.

In some instances kits might be easy to differentiate from a distance by fans due to different coloured shorts, but as players and match officials need to be able to instantly see differences in rugby shirt colours in their peripheral vision, kits with differences in short colours only will be avoided wherever possible during RWC 23. For some matches, the decision has also been taken to change sock colours to avoid potential confusion by match officials.

Off the pitch, steps have also been taken to ensure sufficient colour differentiation in areas like ticketing, accreditation, venue and directional signage, digital platforms and others.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said “When World Rugby first launched the Colour Blindness in Rugby guidelines, we made a clear statement of our intention to apply the colour blind awareness guidance in our own competitions as soon as possible”.

“As a person with CVD myself, I am delighted that from January 2025, the guidance will become policy for World Rugby tournaments as we prepare for the pinnacle of the women’s game with Rugby World Cup 2025 in England. Many stakeholders are already following suit and our hope is that working together, as a team, the rugby family will help accelerate our ambition to deliver a more inclusive game and rugby experience for all”.