Ardie Savea made history on Tuesday as he became the first rugby player to wear official safety goggles at the Rugby World Cup, when he came on as a replacement during New Zealand’s emphatic 63-0 win over Canada.
The All Blacks flanker was not, however, the first player to introduce the eyewear to international rugby, as Italy’s Ian McKinley was a torchbearer for the concept in 2017.
The Benetton flyhalf described it as a “landmark day” when Savea took the field against Canada and said that it was an “inspiring sporting moment” for the “2,000 registered people wearing the goggles”.
I know for me and hopefully for the other 2,000 registered people using the goggles it was an inspiring sporting moment. Hopefully moments like this on such a huge sporting stage will educate and inspire players young and old to take up or continue playing rugby #rugbygoggles
— Ian McKinley (@ianmck7) October 2, 2019
Savea has said how the vision in his left eye has deteriorated in recent years, and is using the goggles in order to protect his right eye. After the victory against Canada, Savea responded on Twitter, thanking McKinley for “paving the way”. The 39-cap international also said that he and many others will benefit from this, as this would have previously been an issue which would have deterred some from playing.
Thank you for paving the way brother. Myself and a lot of others will benefit from this bro.
Thank you 🙏🏼 https://t.co/hFt7GMUpN0
— ardie savea (@ardiesavea) October 2, 2019
McKinley retired from rugby in Ireland in 2011 after a stray boot blinded him in his left eye when playing for Leinster. However, he returned to the game in 2014, wearing goggles to protect his right eye, and worked his way up through the system in Italy until he made his debut for Conor O’Shea’s side in 2017 against Fiji.
He has since played eight Tests for Italy, leaving an indelible mark on the game and has been an inspiration to many. He said: “Hopefully moments like this on such a huge sporting stage will educate and inspire players young and old to take up or continue playing rugby.”
Savea is one of the best players in the world currently and it would be a tragedy if his career were cut short. Fortunately, due to McKinley’s pioneering he can continue playing, and he has shown his gratitude.
WATCH: Ian McKinley: Exceptional Stories documentary