By Jordan Howell
Cardiff Blues’ visually impaired rugby team are looking for more people to get involved, ahead of their return to training.
The team – which is the first visually impaired team in Wales – was set up before lockdown, and is made up of both men and women. Players have varying degrees of visual impairment, and cover a variety of ages, starting at eighteen. They’ve all been itching to get back to training and playing.
One of the key figures involved is Gareth Davies… He started losing his eyesight in his 20s, due to a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa. He was registered blind six years ago, and now only has 10% of his vision remaining in his left eye. It resulted in him having not being able to drive, which also led to him having to re-think his career opportunities – before losing his eye sight, Gareth was looking at careers in sport, military service and the police service.
He said: “Everything I really wanted to be, I couldn’t be. It was taken away from me overnight. It was quite hard to take.
“When I was blind I looked to sport to help me with the acceptance of it all.”
Gareth found out about visually impaired rugby a few years ago, and would travel to London to play with an English team. This gave him the drive to develop a team for South Wales.
Limited adjustments have been made to the game, to make it as authentic as it possibly can be. For player safety, there are no tackles and scrums are passive.
Gareth said: “Just because we’re blind it doesn’t mean we don’t want to play rugby, rather than a game that is called rugby, but doesn’t look or feel anything like it.”
The team have been “blessed” with support from Cardiff Blues and the WRU, with Cardiff Blues treating the squad like any other – their academy, their elite team and their women’s team.
Lockdown has been difficult for everyone, especially for those with a disability such as visual impairment. The team have continued to support each other, remaining connected on Zoom and WhatsApp, which is something Gareth says will be reflected when the team return to training and playing.
You can find out more information about team on Twitter – follow @TheBluesViRugby.