Tuesday 19 November 2019

Stadium boss pledges to find pitch fix

Conor George

AVIVA Stadium director Martin Murphy has confirmed that solutions are being actively sought to ensure the surface doesn't continue to cut up during rugby matches.

The pitch cut up so badly during the Heineken Cup clash between Leinster and Clermont that Jonny Sexton was forced into spurning a chance of three points at one stage of the game and kicked instead to the corner.

A new surface was laid at the stadium in July to facilitate hosting concerts at the venue and the grass has not knit together properly yet.

"It is an ongoing concern for us," said Murphy. "If you look at all the rugby games played over the weekend, every pitch stood up – ours didn't."

The quality of the surface is not an issue for football as it played well in recent internationals – Ireland against Germany in the World Cup qualifying tie on October 12 and against Greece in a friendly on November 14.

The unique nature of rugby, however, is more demanding of the pitch and results in the surface being torn up, as it was on Saturday.

The directors of the Aviva Stadium are seeking advice from one of the world's leading pitch consultancies, Sports Turf Research Institutes (STRI), and Murphy confirmed that further discussions will take place this week.

"The problem at this time of year is that there is no natural growth. We have been trying to artificially stimulate growth, but it hasn't worked as well as we would like.

"We are relying on STRI to come up with a solution because it is a concern that the pitch is still cutting up for rugby matches," Murphy added.

The playing surface has come in for criticism before and was not satisfactory during the November series of rugby internationals. Ireland coach Declan Kidney is understood to have voiced concerns over the pitch at the time. It also cut up pretty badly when Leinster played Munster in the Pro12.

"We expected exactly what we got from the pitch. Last time we were here against Munster, it tore up in a similar fashion and the lads who played here during the autumn internationals had the same opinion," said Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.

"There's not a lot of really close-rooted grass holding it together, therefore it tends to get very loose, very friable and as a result it's very hard to get traction and it makes scrummaging very difficult."

Irish Independent

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