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Auckland Hosts World’s First Blind Rugby International

In a world first, the Blind Lions - a team of blind and visually impaired players from the UK - headed to Auckland on Sunday 2nd July to play a three match series against their New Zealand counterparts. The teams participated in the first every blind rugby international test match - raising awareness of the diversity and inclusivity agenda of rugby today.

The first ever international was played at QBE Stadium in Auckland on Thursday 6th July. The game featured the Blind Lions and New Zealand Blind Rugby, foreshadowing the British and Irish Lions tour finale at Eden Park on Saturday, the match finished 31-0 to the Blind Lions as glimpses of brilliance were overpowered by superior experience and fitness.

Over the last 18 months, UK charity The Change Foundation has been piloting the game with two youth and adult clubs in London, developing the rules, equipment and players to create a game that is both safe and accessible. The sport was showcased at the Beyond Sport Summit 2016 in London.

It is based on touch rugby, but also includes scrums, lineouts and conversion kicks. The two teams play a seven-a-side format, with matches played 14 minutes each way on a smaller field than a standard regulation pitch.

There are an estimated 23 million visually impaired players in the world and until this year there was no blind rugby in the UK or worldwide. The Change Foundation was responsible for setting up the first England Blind Cricket Team and was a founding partner of the World Blind Cricket Council (WBCC).

Andy Sellins CEO of The Change Foundation said: “We are tremendously excited about the international launch of Blind Rugby on the biggest stage of all. We have a rich history of developing blind sport and had a significant role in the formation of blind cricket in England and overseas. Blind rugby is our contribution to the ever widening rugby family across the world. We look forward to developing its growth with partners like Blind Sport New Zealand and England Rugby.”

Blind Rugby Head Coach, Alex Bassan said: “During our journey of developing blind rugby we have tried different variations of the game to find out what suited the players best. Being able to bring the game to over 100 visually impaired players has allowed us to create a game that is not only new in the blind community but also allows sighted players to play alongside their nonsighted friends and family.”

After the Lions Tour of New Zealand, The Change Foundation will focus on developing the game in the UK working with Premiership and Championship clubs such as Harlequins, Bristol and Leicester Tigers. The next goal is to develop players to compete in the first blind rugby Six Nations tournament in 2019 and then take the game internationally working in 15 countries over the next four years and showcasing the game once again at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.


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