Since Saracens unveiled their new synthetic pitch back in 2013, it has raised some questions on the development of synthetic turf in Rugby. Besides the interest of several other clubs in the UK there are also discussions going at International level. Both the Welsh Rugby Union and the Scottish Rugby Union were among the interested observers but they eventually invested in hybrid pitches – a blend of synthetic and real grass that is also in place at Twickenham – to ease their concerns over sub-standard playing surfaces.
It has been said that synthetic turf has already been used for international rugby in the lower tiers of the game but we are clearly some way from a synthetic Rugby World Cup and a fierce debate like that which has been sparked by Fifa’s decision to play the Women’s football World Cup in Canada in 2015 on such surfaces.
The players who are leading the revolt against that decision are reportedly wary of a possible increase in risk of injury when playing on synthetic pitches and similar concerns greeted Saracens’ move to ‘plastic’ with the memory of the carpet-like surfaces used at football clubs such as QPR and Luton back in the 1980s still fresh in the mind of many.
However there is a lack of medical evidence to both support its use and defend it against those who point to what they see as its unforgiving nature. Synthetic turf promises a faster, safer and more entertaining game and it has been proved that the pitch – that incorporates a rubber shock pad and grass-like carpet along with sand and rubber crumb – had met strict guidelines including Head Impact Criteria (HIC) but must still wait for evidence.