On Wednesday 8 February 2023, the Cardiff Arms Park played host to a visually impaired rugby day. The event was organised by Cardiff Rugby Foundation, in conjunction with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and is thought to be the first event of its kind in the U.K.
The event was attended by 70 blind or partially sighted pupils from primary schools across South Wales. Starting at 10am, the pupils engaged in various rugby-based activities on the famous Arms Park pitch, making use of the tackle bags, inflatable rugby posts and giant rugby balls.
It seems that the event went down a storm with the pupils and it is hoped that this will pave the way for further developments for visually impaired rugby across Wales and the rest of the U.K. Harvey, 10, who is blind in his left eye, said: “I didn’t think I could play because of my visual impairment, but today’s been great.”
Jacob, 12, who struggles to see out of his right eye, said anyone with a visual impairment should be able to play, and he hopes to play for Wales.
Rugby is 11-year-old Liberty’s favourite sport: “It’s amazing the fact that people can still play rugby when they have a disability in their eye, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said.
The activities were coordinated by volunteers from the Cardiff Rugby Ladies under 18’s, the Cardiff Adult Visually Impaired Rugby Team and Hugh James. Gareth Davies, a member of the Cardiff Visually Impaired Rugby Team described the event as “incredibly special”.
Once the rugby activities had concluded, the pupils were treated to a full stadium tour, including a visit to the changing rooms, hospitality boxes and training facilities. The event was attended by current Cardiff Rugby second row, James Ratti. Ratti carried out a Q&A session where he was kept on his toes by the enthusiastic questions of the pupils.
Cardiff Rugby Foundation will be hoping that they can use the success of this event to build momentum ahead of the hugely anticipated 2023 Wheelchair Rugby Championship. From 3-7 May, Cardiff’s Principality Stadium will host the 2023 Wheelchair Championship, where Europe’s top 8 teams will do battle. The top two teams at the event will receive automatic qualification for the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games. Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby (GBWR) will be looking to build on their historic gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
As sponsors of Cardiff Rugby Community Foundation, Hugh James looks forward to providing its support to this incredible event and Cardiff Rugby Community Foundation, who continue to champion the challenges faced by those affected by disabilities and ensure there are rugby playing opportunities for all. Being staged at the home of Welsh rugby, the athletes will be provided with an opportunity to showcase their talents on the world stage.
The Hugh James Serious Injury Team specialises in supporting individuals who have suffered life changing brain and spinal cord injuries.