Robertsbridge, UK – Rubber technology could have a part to play in deciding the winner of the Rugby World Cup – now at the final stage and being played in England.
The specially designed Match XV match ball, produced by Gilbert, features a new compound that makes the surface easier to grip even in wet playing conditions.
Richard Gray of Gilbert declined to give details about the rubber compound or production technology, stating that "due to our unique position in the rugby ball market, any further details are commercially sensitive and therefore kept strictly confidential."
The compound is the result of a two-year development project to deliver a new surface with enhanced grip and water dispersion, while maintaining feel or durability, a company statement said.
The modified rubber compound “has created a ball which is softer and [has a] more pliable feel in the hand,” according to the Robertsbridge-based rugby ball maker.
The question now is: which of the remaining teams – Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – will make best use of these properties when the final is played on 31 Oct in Twickenham, London?
According to information on the Gilbert website, company founder William Gilbert (1799-1877) was a boot and shoe maker to Rugby School. He operated from a small shop in the town at 19, High Street which was later acquired by Grays as a sports shop.
By 1823, Gilbert already supplying balls to Rugby School when William Webb Ellis first picked up and ran with the ball and the game of Rugby Football began.