Rugby and Vision

At first thought, one would assume that rugby is not a sport that requires highly accurate vision. After all, the ball is on the large side, and the majority of the game is played in close proximity of team-mates and opposition. However, there are aspects of the sport where maximised vision and optimum visual efficiency could have a decisive factor in the game.

Catching the ball (particularly full-backs and wings).Optimum catching requires depth perception, the 2 eyes focussing and co-ordinating together.Pin sharp vision will mean plenty of time to assess the catch.

Kicking the ball from hand requires excellent hand-eye-foot co-ordination. The 2 eyes should be in balance working well together as a team.

Tackling - Maximised vision will enhance the ability to assess the opponent's body position and angle. Being able to assess the subtle angle of hips, shoulders and weight shift will give clues to their intentions. There is no room for error as this will often lead to a scoring opportunity for the opponents.

Attack - Peripheral awareness of other players will allow you to exploit overlaps and choose the best angle of attack. Offloading the ball in the tackle requires good peripheral awareness skills and depth anticipation skills to time the pass to perfection.

Catching the ball (from a pass) requires vision and convergence to either side. The better the vision the more incisive the catch; combine this with excellent peripheral awareness and depth perception and the ball will move quickly and decisively along the line and the players will be able to exploit any gaps. The player that has the ability to keep their eye on the ball, yet be aware of the position of other players, will always have the edge.

Kicking a penalty, conversion or drop goal requires visualisation and distinctly clear vision to see the angle to the posts. If kicking from an angle then depth perception will play an important role. Anticipation skills need to be highly tuned to allow a proper trajectory to be used. Many successful kickers will 'rock' their focus from the ball to the posts. Good overall awareness of wind speed and direction will also be a factor.

Needs maximised peripheral awareness when working around the scrum. Also requires high visual acuity to spot the glimpse of the ball in the mayhem of the scrum/ruck. Excellent depth perception for the long pass.

Depth perception for throwing accurate and straight balls into the line-out. Inaccurate eye muscles will result in over or under throwing. Latent muscle problems may result in poor throws when becoming tired or dehydrated.

Good depth perception to track the ball, time and jump for the catch. Better vision should make tracking the ball easier. Anticipation of the ball trajectory (good vision and quick reacting focus) enhances the chance of a steal on the opponents throw.

The majority of the forward play is in close proximity of others and so overall good general vision is an advantage, but not having highly efficient well balanced vision will not overly disadvantage (unless stipulated above). General eye health checks are strongly recommended particularly after trauma to the head/eye area to rule out inflammation/retinal detachment etc.

(Gavin Rebello