Since they signed Ireland back up in 2014, Canterbury have taken a much more proactive approach to Ireland’s rarely used alternate jersey than Puma ever did. The results have been a bit of a mixed bag, however – so after playing it safe for two years they’ve decided to mix things up a bit, and the results are certainly out of the ordinary.
Yup, there’s no avoiding the blackcurrant-flavoured elephant in the room here – that is by anyone’s reckoning, a purple rugby shirt. In fact, unless our memories deceive us, this might be the first purple test jersey since Canterbury decided to go all regal with the England change shirt in their first season with them.
Now, when it comes to test jerseys, Canterbury rarely does anything by accident – they’re masters of crafting subtle, retro designs replete with subtle details that convey a story or theme, and unsurprisingly this shirt is no exception.
Heritage is the order of the day here – namely the heritage of the oldest rugby stadium in the world, Lansdowne Road. The former home of Irish rugby is honoured by the colours of the jersey, the plum and dark blue are the colours of the caps that players used to receive at Lansdowne Road back in the ground’s earliest days, and this is of course reflected in the jersey body and the yoke across the shoulders. This very retro combo is paired with the same stub-style collar that was so unconventional on the home jersey and all in all it gives a very old-school vibe.
The most subtle touch of all is found around the back of the jersey, in the middle of the shoulder blades just below the collar. Here you’ll spot a further nod to the much-missed stadium, where four gold bar tacks reference the gold embroidery used on those original Lansdowne caps.
Now, interesting design concepts are all well and good of course, but they don’t really mean a lot if the shirt is a total dog-egg, and while it’s certainly outside the box, in the day or so since we first laid eyes on it, we’ve found that it’s a real grower.
Okay, if you’re diametrically opposed to unconventional colours on test rugby shirts, or indeed you suffer from porphyrophobia, this one’s probably not for you, but given the lack of flexibility that fans will allow when it comes to international home shirts, we applaud manufacturers who opt to try something a little bit different with the change shirt.
The Ireland change shirt is something of an anachronism anyway – like Australia, the Irish are blessed with a colour that has few clashes in test rugby, and so for the most part they only really need an alternate design if they’re playing South Africa at home, which they aren’t this season.
So given that it’s unlikely to get more than one run-out this year, we applaud Canterbury for pushing the boat out and trying to break from the norm. Whatever your feelings on purple rugby jerseys are, in a world where some brands stick to an uninspired palette-swap approach for change shirts, this is a welcome breath of original, unconventional fresh air.