London - The International Rugby Board (IRB) on Thursday said that match officials for the forthcoming British and Irish Lions tour to Hong Kong and Australia will be sponsored by a leading chain of opticians.
The Dublin-based body said referees and assistant referees will wear kit bearing the logo of Specsavers for each of the tour matches, including the three Tests against Australia.
IRB chief executive Brett Gosper said in an emailed statement that the deal, the amount of which was not specified, was "good news for rugby" and demonstrated its ability to attract commercial partners.
The chairperson of Specsavers, Doug Perkins, used to play second row for Welsh side Llanelli.
The chain, which has 1 600 stores in 10 countries, including Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, has sponsored referees in Scottish football since 2002.
It is also involved in sponsoring officials in rugby's former Celtic League and with the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland.
New Zealand's Chris Pollock, South African Craig Joubert and France's Romain Poite will referee the three Test matches between Australia and the touring British and Irish Lions.
Former players Brian Moore (right) and Michael Lynagh (left) pose with referee Nigel Owens (centre) - Getty Images