In January 2013, Aviva Premiership side Saracens RFC unveiled their new synthetic turf pitch at Allianz Stadium, marking a breakthrough for professional sport in England as the club became the first professional English rugby union side to play on synthetic turf.
Despite reservations from some, feedback so far would suggest that such concerns have been refuted, with positive reports from players and coaches alike.
Following one of the first training sessions on the pitch and in an interview with BBC London News, Saracens’ hooker Schalk Brits said, “I’ve been quite impressed with how soft the surface is; first impressions are very good,” whilst fly-half Owen Farrell commented how quick play remained, despite training in adverse weather conditions.
With momentum building, only strengthened by the reported success of the synthetic surface at Allianz Stadium, RaboDirect Pro12 side Cardiff Blues look set to follow in Saracens’ footsteps. The club announced in May 2013 that they are the process of seeking permission from the Welsh Rugby Union to replace the natural turf at Cardiff Arms Park with a synthetic surface, following criticism of the existing pitch since the side returned to the stadium in 2012.
Wales’ national ground, the Millennium Stadium, has also become infamous for its problematic surface, which is currently being replaced several times a year to combat such problems. At the time of the install at Allianz Park, Roger Lewis, group CEO of WRU and Millennium Stadium said: “We will study this very carefully because we will only do it if it’s right for rugby; if we can achieve it, it will save the Welsh Rugby Union millions of pounds.”
To read the full case study on the synthetic turf install at Allianz Stadium, click here.