History in the making – artificial grass rugby pitches

Wasps artificial grass rugby pitch

Wasps Training Ground London – Leisure Tech Lawns install

Saracens have made headlines this month after the unveiling of their new artificial grass rugby pitch at Allianz Park, North London.  The club hopes that the 4G surface will enable a faster, safer and more entertaining game.

Their match against Cardiff Blues last Sunday marked a new era for the sport…professional rugby played on an artificial surface.  While it’s prevalent in American football and Northern Europe, the UK, has until now, never seen a game of this kind.

Rugby without mud

In an interview with the BBC, Director Scott Murphy commented “It doesn’t freeze, doesn’t become muddy and doesn’t break down. You can’t over-use it.”  The day before the match, the pitch was covered in snow.  Despite this on the day, the surface was dry and mud-free, during the game the players stayed on their feet and there were less re-set scrums.

The reaction has been fantastic

Players, coaches and officials from both sides praised the pitch, stating that play was enhanced.

Ceri Sweeny said   “The ball is nice and dry all the time, when you kick the ball it doesn’t skid on as much as it does on a grass pitch, it kind of bounces and holds up so that’s kind of different but it was good.”

Referee Rhys Thomas described the surface as ‘exceptional.’  He also observed that the ball bounced a little higher than on natural grass.

Alex Goode told the Sun “The pitch is an absolute winner and I think rugby will benefit long-term from our initiative.”

Coach Alex Sanderson said “We’re very happy with it.  We train on an artificial pitch as it is so we’re quite confident that it’s a better surface than grass because of its consistency and because it drains unbelievably well.”

The future

In a sport where so many matches are called off due to the weather, artificial surfaces could revolutionise the game.  Officials are hoping fake grass will do for rugby what it’s done for hockey –surface consistency and all year round play.

The Welsh Rugby Union announced that the Millennium Stadium was considered an artificial grass pitch.  They’ve had lots of issues with their natural turf pitch.  In 2009 it had to be re-laid due to a fly infestation.  The ground is to host 6 matches in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and believe that a 4G surface will be much more practical.

The first premier fixture at Allianz Park, Saracens vs. Exeter Chiefs will be played on 16 February.  The rugby community will be watching.

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