By Henry Bodkin of the Daily Telegraph

Over the years, international rugby players have been exhorted to ever greater feats of skill, strength and endurance.

But, until now, no one has asked them to disappear.

That, however, seems to be the intention behind England's new autumn kit, which purports to use state-of-the-art camouflage technology to "mask player movement".


The alternative dark grey outfit, to be worn against Argentina this weekend, is accentuated with a "fiery red fade", intended to blur the ball-carrier as opposition players charge in for the tackle.

Manufactured by Canterbury, the design is said to be in keeping with head coach Eddie Jones's vision of playing "disruptive and uncompromising" rugby.

But tonight scientists were scratching their heads as to whether the kit will actually make a difference.

Professor Wendy Adams, an expert in human visual perception at the University of Southampton, said that any advantage gained from the fading design was likely to be squandered by the high-contrast O2 symbol emblazoned on the front of the shirts.

But she added: "The dark grey of the colour of the fabric could, in principle, reduce the salience of visual contours, such as shadow boundaries within the players' bodies, when compared to a white kit, for example.

"The gradual change from grey to red may also be less likely to attract attention than a sharp grey-red boundary."

Camouflage attempts to conceal objects from detection by softening their true boundary as well as by using confusing patterns to suggest outlines that do not exist.

However, the value of such techniques tends to be lost with movement.

A further type of "dazzle camouflage" can be employed, not to hide objects, but to make it difficult to judge accurately their position and movement, such as was used extensively by Royal Navy ships in the First World War.

Professor Adams suggested the new England shirt design may owe something to this concept.

Canterbury said it created the pattern based on "distraction principles", but was unwilling to give further detail.