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 next month and by the women’s team against Canada, 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.
Meanwhile fans took to social media to criticise the £95 fresh design - the eighth in the last three years - as a revenue-raising stunt.
The dark grey of the colour of the fabric could, in principle, reduce the salience of visual contours
Professor Wendy Adam, University of Southampton
Grey has a mixed history as a sporting colour. In 1996, Alex Ferguson famously ordered his Manchester United players to change out of their grey strip halfway through a losing game at Southampton after they complained they could not see each other against the crowd, while last month the Welsh football team announced they were ditching their grey kit because the players considered it unlucky.
The Rugby Football Union has traditionally been eager to embrace technological innovation, making in 2003 England the first nation in the world world to eschew traditional cotton shirts in favour a hard-to-tackle, tight-fitting design.
Most of the recent advances, however, have centered around the breathability of the shirt, rather than making it harder to see.
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.
England Captain Dylan Harley said the shirt: “Gives us real confidence to know we are wearing the best possible kit."
The weight of the kit has also been reduced by 20gsm, making it the lightest ever made by the manufacturer.
Three years ago England were heavily criticised for using the image from the Victoria Cross medal on its shirts.