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April 3, 2013

A farewell to mud

on 04/03/2013

Rugby in the mud could become a thing of the past ... © Getty Images

The fledgling days of Saracens' artificial grass pitch at Allianz Park have been happy times for the innovators. Widely praised by people with different interests in the game - players, spectators, administrators and the media - the future for artificial pitches looks bright.

Saracens are not quite the innovators and risk takers that some would have you believe. Artificial pitches have been around in sport for a long time and are regularly used in recreational rugby and training. The research and development, the teething problems were all long since dealt with before the pitch was exposed to competitive professional rugby, which explains its success.

Brian Moore predicts: " Within five, maybe fewer, seasons you can be confident that most Premiership grounds will have either a hybrid or an artificial surface." Aside from the potential difficulties for clubs that share a football ground, it's easy to believe. In the debatable quest for the game to become faster, artificial pitches are vital.

If top flight club rugby is to be played on false pitches, it follows that international rugby should be too. Appalling surfaces for recent Six Nations matches in Dublin and Paris provided a huge lift for purveyors of plastic, but a death knell for muddy rugby.

Those who appreciate the state of the pitch as one of rugby's enduring variables that influence the way a game is played will have to seek their satisfaction at lower levels. Like it or not, the professional game is on a course to contrived uniformity of conditions.

The transition period could be surprisingly short, for once the ball is rolling internationally there will be no tolerance for playing on different surfaces in different parts of the world. Multi-use stadia will face an uncomfortable dilemma, but with FIFA also keeping a close eye on artificial pitches, we could see rugby and football go the way of hockey and tennis within a generation.



Posted Mike M on 04/08/2013

I was wondering when someone with too much time on their hands would whinge about the picture. Rugby having that image is in your mind.

Posted Olivier on 04/05/2013

I'm wondering why we need to have half naked ladies to illustrate this article. It's easy on the eye, yes, but it doesn't do any good in contradicting the idea of rugby being full of misogynist pigs.
Quite disappointed @Espn.

Posted JP Foley on 04/03/2013

With so few of us around that appreciate the character weather & field conditions lend to the game this change was inevitable. The word antiseptic comes to mind. Roll out the carpet, close the roof and keep the thermostat set somewhere between 20&25 degrees.

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Writer Bio

Richard SeecktsRichard Seeckts’ rugby career consisted of one school match where he froze on the wing and despite no substitutes being available he was withdrawn from the game at half-time for mocking the opposition’s line-out calls. Thereafter Richard and the sport agreed active participation was not the way ahead, but that has not prevented him from avidly writing about and watching the game. He now contributes his random observations to the Crooked Feed blog on