Ian McKinley, the first professional rugby player to wear protective goggles, has advice for All Black Ardie Savea: get used to the insults.
Savea will wear rugby goggles in the All Blacks’ clash against Canada – after trialling them in training this week – to avoid losing his sight further after having deteriorating vision in his left eye.
“A couple of years ago I realised I had bad vision in my left eye. Everything’s kind of blurry,” Savea explained. “I told All Blacks Doctor Tony Page that it was getting worse and now we’re doing something about it. Doc notified me that World Rugby had some goggles that were approved and everyone has been really supportive.”
The Irish-born Italian playmaker McKinley applauded Savea for the decision to don the goggles but warned that he might get a few insults as a result.
“I would imagine so,” McKinley told Radio Sport Breakfast when asked if Savea will be on the receiving end of any insults.
“I have a fair few and anytime you play in a game you’ve got people in the crowd that would say things to you but you just learn to get on with it as part of the game. But I’m sure there’s probably a few nicknames and a bit of teasing going on but I think he’s a big enough character to brush that aside and not look at it as an issue.
“It is a courageous decision for Ardie I’m sure. It does take a lot of balls to do it with the slagging and all that sort of stuff but I think the people that do it are doing it for the right reasons and they know that they’re playing in safety or their performance levels will benefit from it. So I think it’s full respect for him lining up against Canada with them.”
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McKinley, who has played at first-five for Italy and Pro14 side Benetton, lost vision in one eye after getting a stud in the eye during a match, which caused his retina to detach. He has worn goggles on the field as protection since 2014.
The rugby veteran admitted that there could be some initial issues for Savea as he gets used to the goggles, one of which is keeping them on.
“I personally wear a scrum cap,” McKinley said. “I suppose the goggles are likened to ski goggles so you’ve got a strap that goes round the back of your head. I would wear a scrum cap just to make sure that they stay in place.
“I don’t know how he’s going to approach it, but from experience – I’ve been using these since 2014 – anytime I don’t wear a scrum cap they would tend to fall off. Obviously he’s going to be in the breakdown quite a lot, maybe a bit more to me considering that I’m a first-five eighth, so I would imagine he might use it (tape or a scrum cap) but I don’t know.”
McKinley says it’s just a matter of getting used to the goggles.
“Obviously when it’s a new product it takes a little time for me to get used to it. So weather conditions, with rain and that sort of thing, can be a little more tricky but you just learn through that. For many years I’ve been adapting to them. So it’s almost like wearing a gum shield or wearing a scrum cap for the first time. You get used to it.”
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