Fantastic plastic will end the winter mudbaths for the better, despite what traditionalists might say
00:19 GMT, 21 December 2012
Those ‘traditionalists’ who are permanently up in arms about any change to the precious status quo have a prime new focus for concern and complaint.
Artificial pitches are coming.
The purists will have a field day, so to speak.
There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth when Saracens take their place at the vanguard of the revolution by moving to Allianz Park, their new home in Barnet, next month.
A thing of the past: Mudbaths of the like which led to this famous image of Fran Cotton will become a thing of the past when artificial pitches are brought into rugby union
There they will play on a synthetic surface, which will also be available to the community.
It has emerged that Wales are considering the use of artificial turf at the Millennium Stadium, where there have been endless problems with the grass.
No doubt, the prospect of Tests being played on a hi-tech, all-weather carpet will crank up the traditionalists’ anger still further.
Such resistance is absurd. This is positive progress, not something that betrays the heritage of the sport.
Much of the opposition is based on the out-dated notion of so-called ‘plastic pitches’ being dangerous.
But the state-of-the-art surfaces, with grass yarn laid on rubber, are far removed from old-fashioned Astroturf.
Pioneers: Saracens will have an artificial pitch when they move to their new home, Allianz Park in Barnet, next month
They have been heavily tested and
declared safe. Improved grip means less danger of scrum collapses, which
in turn reduces a major source of serious injury.
of the argument against this innovation is that teams must deal with
what the forces of nature throw at them. Well, this is Britain, so there
is plenty of rain and wind to keep rugby real.
if games at the Millennium Stadium end up being played under a closed
roof, on a fake grass pitch, as if in a vacuum, this column has no
The most talented players will still manage to stand apart, even if basic skills are easier to perform.
face it, no-one has ever gone to a match in the hope of seeing slips
and knock-ons. The end of winter mud-baths leading to stodgy contests
wouldn’t be lamented here.
Six Nations winners Wales are considering artificial turf at the Millennium Stadium
iconic picture of Fran Cotton looking like a creature from the swamps
would serve as an image of a historical reference point.
If summer rugby is not on the agenda (more’s the pity) then these durable, consistent surfaces represent a compromise.
presumably still pine for heavy, cotton shirts and heavy, leather
balls, not to mention rotund props who can’t run and have to perform a
forfeit if they actually throw a pass.
Move on — the game is changing, for the better in this case.
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Quote of the week
Brian O’Driscoll on his lifestyle changes: ‘I have the T-shirt from going out in my twenties, I don’t go out nearly as much as I used to. You get to a point where your life and family situation dictates certain things and you are just content in living that way.
As a 22-year-old you look at guys like me now — 32-33 — and you say, “Jeesus, settled down and married, I couldn’t imagine anything worse”. But I look at the 22-year-olds now and I say, “You can keep your wild lifestyle”. I have been there, lived it, enjoyed it, but you just shelve that. God forbid, it’s dinner parties I go to now, not nightclubs!’
Sarries out of tune with Munster
While the bold step of installing an artificial pitch illustrates the best of Saracens, what happened in Watford last weekend showed the club in a much dimmer light.
Those who were at Vicarage Road for the visit of Munster will not forget the Tannoy torture in a hurry.
With a huge contingent of away fans in attendance and in fine voice, as ever, a conscious decision was made to dilute their impact on proceedings by blaring out the awful ‘Stand up for the Saracens’ over the public-address system.
New feel: Saracens will have artificial turf when they move to their new home, Allianz Park next month
That one, grating line was repeated perhaps a thousand times during the game — often cynically played louder if Munster fans were singing.
It didn’t just ruin their experience, it also antagonised many home fans too, judging by angry comments on the club’s website.
Saracens don’t have enough loyal supporters to alienate the ones they do have. This was a terrible error of judgment and must not be repeated.
In addition, the authorities should ban this barrage of music while the game is taking place. Before, after and at half-time is fine, but not during.
New man at the helm: Scott Johnson
The last word
There must be something sensational on Scott Johnson’s c.v., some startling revelations which apparently prove to prospective employers that he is capable of wizardry. Either that, or he’s just a master at talking himself into top jobs.
The Australian has been installed as Scotland’s interim head coach, based on his ‘wealth of experience of international rugby’. Well, he worked in the Wales set-up under Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Mike Ruddock, but was widely implicated in the latter coach’s abrupt exit.
After an abortive stint in charge, Johnson drifted home to act as assistant to the Wallabies. Then he had a brief stint with the USA, and a colourful period of mixed fortunes as Ospreys director of coaching before joining Scotland.
To this day, he is perhaps best known for referring to New Zealand as ‘a poxy little island in the south Pacific’ — which is telling in itself. It may be in Scotland’s best long-term interests if the Six Nations is an unmitigated disaster.