Tuesday 20 March 2018

Six Nations not cooling on night-time kick-offs

The scene at the Stade de France as workers tried in vain to thaw the frozen pitch
The scene at the Stade de France as workers tried in vain to thaw the frozen pitch

Hugh Farrelly

SIX NATIONS chief executive John Feehan has vowed to "revisit our procedures" following the farcical scenes that led to the cancellation of last Saturday's Six Nations clash between Ireland and France but said night-time kick-offs are "not a major issue".

When referee Dave Pearson inspected the Stade de France pitch around 7.0, the game was going ahead, but by the scheduled 9.0 kick-off the surface had been deemed unsafe, leaving 80,000 fans frustrated and considerably out of pocket.

However, Feehan said that while heating systems in Six Nations stadiums (the Stade de France has no undersoil heating) would be reviewed, he was happy that late kick-offs would continue.

"This is an exceptional situation," said Feehan. "A lot of rugby nowadays has night-time kick-offs, be it club or international -- if the procedures are right and we have the mechanics to ensure that this cannot happen again, I don't see why it shouldn't be at night.

"That is not really the main issue. The main issue is what do you do when the temperature is that low? Do you have the facility to change the timing or whatever it might be in relation to that specific game? We are going to have to revisit our procedures.

"The way the Six Nations has been organised to date is that each union, once it knows the time, place and venue for the game, is effectively responsible for staging that game.

"Under the rules as they exist now, the Six Nations office itself can't call off a game. It can only be called off by the whole council or changed. It can be postponed by two other means -- by the host union or it can be postponed on match day by the referee, which in this instance it was.

"We very much regret what has happened -- this is not something anyone would have wished to happen.

"We have got to look at how it happened and make sure it doesn't reoccur," added Feehan, who admitted that undersoil heating at every stadium would be preferable.

"We are going to have to look at maybe insisting on something like that in the long term. It is a huge capital investment and it something to be looked at over time.

"I think there are issues with regards to the bedrock in the Stade de France. Whether it is undersoil heating or another heating system that actually works, it will have to be looked at."

Irish Independent

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