The 2003 Rugby World Cup was famously won by England following an extra time drop-goal from Johnny Wilkinson. However, their success was built on far more than just that one moment. Since taking up his role as head coach Clive Woodward had introduced a number of cutting edge innovations, processes and protocols; that as a whole system significantly contributed to improving the team on and off the pitch. One such introduction was a skin-tight playing jersey that was intended to be much more difficult to grip during tackling in comparison to its predecessors.

England’s kit manufacturer at the time was Nike, tasked with developing this new style of garment they approached Progressive to help with the development. This involved creating a bespoke test rig emulating the grip and tug action of a rugby player on a jersey. The resulting test helped Nike to produce a durable garment that was able to withstand the stresses of elite play and become part of a World cup winning story.


In conjunction with Nike, Progressive developed a test rig that was able to test the prototype jerseys to destruction; by mounting the garments onto a rigidly fixed manikin and inserting a portion of the shirt into an artificial gripping device. The gripper incorporated a load cell, which was able to provide data on the peak forces required to damage the jersey after it was pulled along a track at a speeds of up to 10 meters per second. The peak force data was in turn used to identify materials/jersey configurations that were the strongest and toughest and which could subsequently be integrated into final jersey designs.


This project is a prime example of Progressive’s ability to innovate, design and implement a completely bespoke methodology using a piece of equipment that was designed and built from the ground up. Following extensive research into grip strength and garment mounting techniques, the jersey test rig was built to emulate and exceed the stresses experienced by elite rugby equipment.

The testing that Progressive conducted on behalf of Nike led to a stronger, more resilient jersey that didn’t stretch. The jersey was worn by eventual Rugby World Cup 2003 winners – England, who were able to add this innovation to a series of others that allowed them to become the best team on and off the pitch. Incidentally since this products inception, skin-tight rugby jerseys have become common place within the professional game.

Progressive Sports Technologies maintain a highly skilled research and development team, at-hand to support your project requirements, large and small.

Progressive Sports Technologies Ltd
Advanced Technology Innovation Centre
5 Oakwood Drive
LE11 3QF
United Kingdom


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