Meet the makers of the Rugby World Cup match balls

As the Rugby World Cup 2019 kicks off in Japan, not many people know that the historic company behind the iconic Gilbert range of rugby balls is East Sussex company, Grays International.

Gilbert has been making every World Cup ball since 1995, and their designs have shaped the very development of rugby as we know it today.

It is our constant research, development and relentless drive to produce the best and most innovative products for rugby that sets Gilbert aside as the ball of choice for the world’s elite.

Grays International

No of Employees
Gilbert started in
Rugby World Cup match ball since


William Gilbert (1799-1877) was the boot and shoemaker to Rugby School and started supplying balls to the school in 1923. 'Gilbert' became one of the most popular makers of rugby balls and has been making rugby balls since the game's conception. First, from hand-stitched, four-panel, leather casings and real pigs bladders to pioneering the development of the synthetic ball, Gilbert has been at the forefront of innovation in rugby ball design.

Acquired in 2002, Grays International has added to Gilbert's reputation, opening up new markets and winning a new generation of sports fans.

Sirius World Cup Match Ball

A fixture since the historic Rugby World Cup 1995, every four years Gilbert makes new developments on their rugby balls, becoming standard-bearers of innovation within Rugby Union. For the 2019 World Cup, they have introduced the Sirius match ball.

Inspired by the Sirius A and B stars, together they are the brightest star in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, with Sirius uniting the Rugby world.

Unlike standard rugby balls, Gilbert has specially made a ball for each game, having to be perfect and consistent no matter the weather. Gilbert has rigorous and thorough testing phases, including being tested at their headquarters in Robertsbridge and their facilities in Japan, creating truly memorable and inspiring moments for audiences and players worldwide.

Their new Sirius Match Ball, which debuted last year in preparation for the Rugby World Cup 2019, has a unique fractal spiral pattern across the ball, strikingly coloured geometric shapes new grip with star-shaped pimple patterns and G-XV rubber compound surface on the ball. It is finally capped with iconic RWC feature highlighting Japan unique role as the first Asian nation to host the competition.

Iconic sporting brands

Based in rural Robertsbridge in the heart of the Sussex Weald, the company has become a global leader in the manufacturing of top-grade sporting equipment and clothing apparel in their core markets of rugby, cricket, netball and hockey.

Family-run the company is led by five Gray brothers who are the directors and sole shareholders of Grays International. Since 1855, Grays of Cambridge have been invested in cricket and rugby from the days of a small shop in Cambridge to their merger with LJ Nicolls to create beloved Gray-Nicolls cricket brand.

Gray-Nicolls is now one of the leading and most prestigious suppliers of quality cricket apparel. They were the official cricket equipment supplier for the Cricket World Cup 2019.


Profits at the Top 50 East Sussex Company have grown in 2018 and are expected to be boosted by the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Pre-tax profits climbed to £1.9m from £1.2m in the year to 31 December 2018, while turnover was £25.1m compared to £25.8m 12 months earlier.

You can visit the Gilbert Rugby official website and follow all the Rugby World Cup action here.

Author: Milan Matejka

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