Creating test jerseys is something of a thankless task for kit designers – national team jerseys are so cherished and timeless in the eyes of fans that anything but the most minor deviation from the norm will cause a huge fuss, but they’ll equally get slated for churning out something classic and unoriginal every year.
After a few years of keeping things very clean and classic, Canterbury has opted for the former approach this season and decided to try something a little bit different with England’s home shirt.
The most notable departure from the norm is of course the sleeves. On a practical level, the length of the sleeves on the test shirt has been increased slightly, and they’re made with high-stretch modular fabrication to ensure that they fit the arms a bit better.
That’s all under the hood, however, and the most visible and striking change is the dark blue fade at the bottom of each sleeve cuff, which is paired with a red pinstripe above the cuff.
Midnight blue is of course one of England rugby’s traditional colours – the socks have traditionally been that shade, even if it fell out of favour in the Nike era, but since 2012, Canterbury has brought it back into the mix.
Interestingly, that 2012 home jersey also featured midnight blue sleeve cuffs – but this is a significantly more modern and bold design choice, and one that’s definitely pushing things out of the ‘retro’ vibe of recent seasons.
Canterbury has always been keen to feature the St George’s Cross on their England shirts, and this year it’s no different, with a prominent flag on the back of the neck, below the new double-layered loop collar, which is identical to what we first saw on the Ireland home shirt.
Like that Ireland home shirt, the test version of the England shirt also features an irregular geometric pattern sublimated into the fabric – this is another example of Canterbury’s new ‘evade’ jersey tech, which is designed to distract the tackler’s eye and make the player harder to tackle.
Canterbury has a reputation for playing it safe with its test coaches, and while we’re unlikely to ever see a test jersey that pushes the design boundaries like club shirts can, this is a definite step in a modern direction – and a very successful one, too.