Is artificial turf the future of rugby?
Wed, 12 Sep 2012 6:47p.m.
By Jim Kayes
Saturday's test is the first time the All Blacks will play at Dunedin's covered stadium.
The venue is a template for any future big rugby stadia in New Zealand, but the Dunedin City Council is considering replacing the field with artificial turf.
So could the days of tests being played on real grass soon be a thing of the past?
The stadium’s roof is revolutionary and Forsyth Barr Stadium boss David Davies says the partly real, partly artificial turf is cutting edge too.
He says spending $1 million to replace it would be ridiculous.
“It’s a waste of money…it’s a betrayal of $38 million of roof engineering,” says Mr Davies.
But Mr Davies, who has been in charge of leading rugby and football clubs in Britain, concedes artificial turf will become increasingly popular as cushioning improves.
“If we do, you could see countries building them where, quite frankly, they can't grow grass - a lot of African countries or even in Northern European countries where they could get good quality pitches during champion league games,” he says.
Growing grass isn't an issue in New Zealand, however Wellington premier club games are played on International Rugby Board-approved artificial fields, and the All Blacks train on them.
But All Black Conrad Smith says he couldn’t imagine playing a test match on artificial turf.
“I like the feel of [real] turf under my boots,” says Smith.
“We've had quite a bit of experience with artificial turf particularly in the UK and Europe, [but] with training we have got to be careful how long we spend on them, we find the guys are getting a bit sore, joints, calves and hamstrings, those sort of things tend to tighten up,” says All Black manager Darren Shand.
Shane Page's company made Wellington's five artificial fields along with the blue London Olympic hockey turf. He says the quality and cushioning is constantly improving.
Dunedin's field costs about a quarter of a million a year to maintain, but Mr Davies says with the equivalent of about 180 games played on it in the past year, it's worth every cent.
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12/09/2012 9:10:59 p.m.
I hope the council listen to the stadium boss Davies, the players, think about all the expense in the roofing engineering and the cost of this to the rate payer before they turf the grass for an unproven artificial pitch! The whole point of the covered stadium and the selling point was to have a natural surface under a roof. I'd be very concerned if a bunch of elected lay people interfer with the development and design if this world class facility. So far no case has been put forward justifying such a radical change. If this change were made it could kill the stadium as an international rugby venue if teams won't play on it and this would be criminal. Why threaten the future of the stadium thus way? Look at the response of people despite the controversy: average attendances to Super Rugby games up 7000 per match, this weekend's test between All Blacks and South Africa should be a sell out as there is NO vacant accommodation in the Dunedin area. One has to go north to Oamaru or south to Milton to find any. That tells me they've got it right so Dunedin Council HANDS OFF OUR STADIUM - after all as rate payers we're funding it twice through rates and ticket purchases.
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