It seems strange to think that this is Wales’ final Under Armour jersey – while the US brand didn’t come on board until Warren Gatland had already guided Wales to a Grand Slam in 2008, UA will always be associated with this period of remarkable success for the team under the Kiwi coach.
While fans have regularly complained about the poor sizing and fit of replica jerseys over that time, the players have always spoken very highly of UA’s gear, and unlike other brands running down their sponsorship deals, its to Under Armour’s credit that these new jerseys feel less like a box-ticking exercise than an attempt to go out on a high.
When Wales toured the USA last summer, UA brought members of the squad to its Baltimore HQ in order to scan their bodies in an attempt to get even better fitting jerseys and shorts, and to ensure that the designs were even more comfortable, flexible and the like, and you can see that in the new expanded spandex panels around the arms and shoulders.
UA has also always been very good at telling a story to base the design on – see the ‘country on our shoulders’ topographic pattern from 2017 – and again there’s a tale to tell to back up the design.
This time around the theme is ‘Strength and shield’ borrowing a line from that most beloved of Welsh rugby hymns, Bread Of Heaven. So, the WRU badge itself is encased in a very handsome shield for the first time, and indeed the jersey itself has a V-shaped quartered patter that itself is supposed to be a not to a classic knight’s shield.
But that’s not all, the four quarters of that ‘shield’ pattern are also designed to represent the four corners of Wales (and dare we say it, four regions?) coming together and uniting under the banner of one team.
Silly, contrived nonsense? Almost certainly, yes. But we don’t mind brands mythologising a jersey when the outcome is so aesthetically pleasing and interesting. Even the alternate design, with its tonal green pattern, looks great, which is a feat in itself.
Wales have worn everything from black and anthracite to canary yellow and silver as their change designs over the last 20 years, but for some reason green has never been popular with designers – in fact we don’t think they’ve worn a green change shirt since 1995.
This demonstrates how a colour can be used in a way that doesn’t automatically scream ‘Ireland’, which we’d imagine is part of the reason that Wales designers have avoided it in the past.
Okay, it’s a bit ‘Springbok’ for some, but the striking red shield really pops and makes it feel very much a Wales shirt.
So quite asides from phoning it in, it seems like Under Armour have in fact saved the best for last with these final Wales shirts… but with the greatest respect to UA’s designers, our favourite part of the jersey wasn’t even their idea.
The new collar is unlike anything we’ve seen on a UA shirt before, an open-necked low profile design that feels both classic and modern, and is in sharp contrast to the ultra-tight necklines Wales have rocked in the last few years. And with good reason.
During testing of various new jersey designs in Six Nations camp this year, Alun Wyn Jones had a problem – the collar of the current Wales jersey didn’t work. So much so that the captain had taken to tearing open his jersey collars before the match – could they not try something similar?
Apparently, that was a pretty good idea – and the rest as they say, is history. A fantastically great detail on one of the World Cup’s most interesting and cool jerseys.
Check out all the new RWC2019 jerseys in our full round-up here.