Will the future arrive on Sunday?

Tue, 22 Jan 2013 19:07
Large allianzparkturf Large charliehodgsonsaracenstrysnow Large alexcuthbertcardiff

Saracens and Cardiff Blues will make history on Sunday as they play the first professional match in Europe on artificial turf.

Saracens and Cardiff Blues will make history this Sunday as they play the first-ever professional top-flight match in Europe on artificial turf in their Anglo-Welsh Cup clash at the new Allianz Park.

The encounter will be the first for Sarries at the 10,000-seater stadium in Barnet, London, which is set to become their permanent home.

And the artificial surface, designed after six years of research by Support in Sport, is the first of its kind in the sport - with the three-layered rugby-specific surface made up of 65mm synthetic blades and a shock pad to reduce the threat of joint injuries.

Synthetic pitches were a revolution when introduced to field hockey in the 1980s, while 13 American Football teams in the NFL also play on similar surfaces.

Despite an initial installation cost of £500,000 the all-weather pitch is low-maintenance, with an eight-year cycle before it needs to be replaced, and will debut in the Premiership on February 13 when Exeter Chiefs visit Allianz Park.

And with the rugby world set to be watching this Sunday, Sarries chief executive Edward Griffiths is delighted the club are pioneering what he believes will be the future of the sport.

“We are incredibly excited about this new chapter for this rugby club and what we feel could be a new chapter in this sport as a whole,” he said.

“We believe that what these pitches did to hockey can be replicated in rugby. Hockey was transformed by the introduction of these pitches and I am certain that is a possibility in rugby.

“This surface has been created just for rugby and all the research shows us it will be a faster game and one which will still be safe for the players to use.

“I have had conversations with people in South Africa, Australia, and I know people are interested at places like Murrayfield as well, and all these places are waiting to see whether this experiment is successful going forward because if it is I think it will be a route more and more clubs go towards.

“If this surface here is a success in the long-run, does it mean rugby pitches in the next five years will all be artificial or moving in that direction? I think it probably does.”

The move to Barnet ends a period of nomadic travel for Saracens, who have played ‘home’ fixtures at six different venues far this season as they waited for building work to be completed at Allianz Park.

And Griffiths is confident Saracens can adapt to life at a new stadium quickly and believes teams will enjoy coming to Allianz Park because of the unique playing surface.

“I think a home venue always gives a team an edge but this one will be a bit different,” he added.

“Teams will come here knowing they have to contend with a new pitch – one which we will let them train on beforehand – but I’m sure people will quickly see the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 27 May 2016
Boland v Eagles 13h00 Wellington
Free State Cheetahs v Pumas 13h00 Bloemfontein
Border v Falcons 17h00 East London
Kings v Jaguares 17h00 Ascoli Piceno
Sat, 28 May 2016
Blues v Crusaders 07h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Sunwolves 09h40 Canberra
Western Province v Griquas 10h15 Newlands
Blue Bulls v Leopards 12h15 Loftus Versfeld
Golden Lions v EP Kings 13h00 Johannesburg
Stormers v Cheetahs 13h00 DHL Newlands
Namibia v Griffons 13h00 Windhoek
Saracens v Exeter Chiefs 14h00 London
Bulls v Lions 15h05 Loftus Versfeld
Connacht v Leinster 16h30 Edinburgh
Sun, 29 May 2016
Rebels v Force 06h05 Melbourne
England v Wales 14h00 London
PREMIERSHIP
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
Saracens 22 17 1 4 80
Exeter Chiefs 22 15 0 7 74
Wasps 22 15 0 7 72
Leicester Tigers 22 14 0 8 65
Northampton Saints 22 12 0 10 60
Sale Sharks 22 11 2 9 58
Harlequins 22 10 1 11 55
Gloucester 22 10 1 11 49
Bath 22 9 0 13 48
Worcester Warriors 22 7 0 15 35
Newcastle Falcons 22 5 1 16 27
London Irish 22 4 0 18 20