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
Sun, 04 October 2015
Zebre v Scarlets 13h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Argentina v Tonga 13h30 Leicester
Ireland v Italy 15h45 London
Tue, 06 October 2015
Canada v Romania 15h45 Leicester
Fiji v Uruguay 19h00 Milton Keynes
Wed, 07 October 2015
South Africa v United States 15h45 London
Namibia v Georgia 19h00 Exeter
Fri, 09 October 2015
Pumas v Blue Bulls 16h00 Mbombela Stadium
Western Province v EP Kings 16h00 Newlands
New Zealand v Tonga 19h00 Newcastle
Sat, 10 October 2015
Golden Lions v Griquas 12h00 Ellis Park
Samoa v Scotland 13h30 Newcastle
Free State Cheetahs v Sharks 14h05 Bloemfontein
Australia v Wales 15h45 London
England v Uruguay 19h00 Manchester
Team P W D L Pts
Northampton Saints 22 16 1 5 76
Bath 22 16 0 6 75
Leicester Tigers 22 15 1 6 68
Saracens 22 14 1 7 68
Exeter Chiefs 22 14 0 8 68
Wasps 22 11 2 9 61
Sale Sharks 22 11 0 11 54
Harlequins 22 10 0 12 49
Gloucester 22 9 1 12 48
London Irish 22 7 1 14 40
Newcastle Falcons 22 5 1 16 34
London Welsh 22 0 0 22 1