Treviso outside-half Ian McKinley made history this afternoon as he became the first man to play against an Aviva Premiership Rugby team in England wearing goggles in his side’s game with Gloucester Rugby.
The goggles have been a regular part of the 26-year-old’s game in Italy this year, although he required permission from the RFU for them to be worn in European matches in England, something which was granted this week.
That gave the Irishman the chance to make history when he took to the field at Kingsholm, lining up for Treviso in their Challenge Cup tie.
The goggles are the result of an injury McKinley sustained back in 2010 – when still a teenager – finding himself on the unfortunate end of a bundled ruck while playing for University College Dublin.
A stray boot caught his left eye and caused permanent damage. The next six months saw McKinley recover to 70 per cent vision, going on to make his unlikely debut for Leinster – coincidentally against Treviso.
But further complications down the line seemed to put his career to a halt once again, though the Irishman once again defied expectations to regain the field, starting with a coaching spell in Udine, Italy.
From there, he continued his route back to playing, and while it started with baby steps, it’s a journey which has taken McKinley back to rugby’s elite.
The back went on to earn a contract with Treviso and will have the opportunity to showcase his journey against Aviva Premiership Rugby opponents Gloucester today.
Undoubtedly saving his career, McKinley still has the chance to take part in the game he knows and loves.
For more information, and to find out the opportunities available in your community to play rugby with visual impairments, visit http://playerwelfare.worldrugby.org/goggles