The Rugby World Cup makes up a 4 year cycle with a huge amount of planning and development taking place worldwide. At Gilbert Rugby, we take immense pride in supplying every match ball for the 2019 tournament, something which we have been trusted with since Rugby World Cup 1995.
We spoke to Ball Engineer Ian Savage and Rugby World Cup Winner Paul Grayson who work together to ensure the match balls are 100% ready for game day.
What and why do we test?
To ensure each match ball is ready for Rugby World Cup 2019, Paul Grayson has the job to kick test every ball in the weeks leading up to the tournament.
“I have played in 2 Rugby World Cups, and been involved in 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. To be involved in some way and still have some skin in the game, is wicked for me.”
– Paul Grayson
Unlike match balls provided to clubs and schools, making match balls for the Rugby World Cup is a completely different ball game. Grayson says: “The challenge is you’re making balls for one game, they come out of the bag, used for an hour by the kickers the day before then they go straight into a match. The Sirius Match Ball’s life for the RWC is much different to that of a ball used in club rugby. Testing is therefore so important because they are used once and have to be as close to perfect as possible.”
Savage says: “There are so many fluctuating things, in stadiums and training venues, for example the atmospheric and wind condition, if you are used to kicking a ball inside a stadium and then go into a new location you need a ball you can trust.”
Testing the Match Balls at different times of day is also an important part of the testing procedure, Grayson says: “Testing the change in conditions from early to mid-morning when the temperature increases, has an effect on the ball and the pressure. All of these things are factored into ball design and you try to take out any variables you can.”
There is a strict process involved in inflating and deflating the match balls to ensure they are completely prepared for match day, Savage says: “We try and keep our finger on the ball until the last possible second. The ball has 3 inflations and then goes to the tournament inflated. This means that the ball is checked at the factory, checked again at Gilbert HQ before kick testing, then checked again at our facility in Japan before it finally goes to the tournament. Ultimately we are then happy with the valve, air retention, shape and performance and we give the balls to the tournament organisers at the correct pressure.”
Every detail of a match ball counts, from the initial design phase, to prototyping, to testing the finish product before they head into the arena. It is this attention to detail and incremental improvements that make the ball truly memorable to both players and fans.
“I think this is the best ball we have ever made.”
- Ian Savage