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  1. ITV Report

Rugby for blind and visually impaired players introduced in Wales

Special rugby balls with bearings inside make the ball audible for visually impaired players. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

A rugby training session for blind and partially sighted people has been introduced in Wales for the first time.

The session was held in anticipation of this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Christian Hyde, who lost his sight due to diabetes, says he never thought he'd play rugby again. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

For many attending the training event at Cardiff Arms Park, it was the first time to be able to play the sport.

Christian Hydes, who lost his sight due to diabetes, says he never thought he'd play again.

"I'm trying hard not to cry, being back on a rugby field with like minded people is something a bit special and a bit emotional and a sense of achievement as well. When I lost my sight I thought, that's it and all I could do was enjoy from the sofa or terraces but to be back on the playing field is something a bit special."

Special rugby balls with bearings inside make the ball audible for visually impaired players. The UK team is made up of partially sighted players from across the country including Welshman Gareth Davies.

areth now plays for the UK visually impaired team and is dedicated to proving that people living with sight loss can still achieve their life goals despite facing challenges. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Gareth, 45, from Cardiff, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at 19 and was registered blind five years ago. A keen rugby player, he was initially devastated when his condition deteriorated. Gareth now works for RNIB and is dedicated to proving that people living with sight loss can still achieve their life goals despite facing challenges. The charity is committed to breaking down barriers for blind and partially sighted people, including those in sport.

Gareth said: "Having the opportunity to play rugby again following my sight loss has been incredible. VI rugby has given me the chance to compete again in a sport I love but thought I had lost. The camaraderie, fun and fitness that VI rugby offers is second to none.

"The game is growing rapidly in England and now we have an opportunity to get a Welsh team up and running. All partially sighted players are welcome to attend the taster session, even if they haven't played before but are keen to try."

Tobias Smith, Programme Officer at UNA Exchange said: "It is so exciting to bring VI rugby opportunities to the people of Wales and a privilege to host the event at Cardiff Arms Park.

"Participants will be able to take part in rugby in a way they never have before. A morning of skills training will be followed by an afternoon of tournaments, but the most important message of the day is to have fun."

Watch Sian Thomas' report: