THE Scottish Rugby Union is considering introducing artificial pitches at the highest level of the sport in Scotland, with Murrayfield’s hallowed turf becoming partially plastic.
Murrayfield’s turf, which dates from 1925 and was once considered the finest in world rugby, would be replaced with the same semi-artificial “Desso” surface used at Twickenham.
Scotland on Sunday has learned that the SRU favour a fully plastic pitch at the Glasgow Warriors’ home ground at Scotstoun, similar to that at Allianz Park in north London, home of former English Premiership champions Saracens.
The new generation of plastic pitches designed for rugby feature rubber cushioning under a surface which, for Murrayfield, would consist of grass interwoven with plastic implants. This so-called hybrid surface and the fully artificial pitch planned for Scotstoun would save large sums on maintenance and could be used for many more matches.
Former Scottish international prop forward Norrie Rowan last night predicted the plastic or hybrid pitches would be accepted by all of Scottish rugby except possibly gnarled old props. Rowan said: “I don’t think they’ll cause a problem. We all saw how the grass pitches in Paris and Dublin cut up at scrums during the Six Nations, but it didn’t happen at Twickenham.
“I have spoken to plenty players who say that scrummaging is fine on these surfaces, but I can think of a few old props who won’t like it because they won’t be able to grab some mud and stick it in their opponents’ eyes.”
Scott Hastings, who retired as Scotland’s most capped player at the time with 65 caps, welcomed the plan, saying: “Do it now. And move the Murrayfield pitch towards the west stand and reintroduce a schoolboy enclosure.”
An SRU spokesman confirmed that a working party had been established to weigh up the costs and benefits of artificial pitches before reporting back to the board. He said: “Scottish Rugby is always keen to explore innovation and new technology and we have an internal team looking into the subject of artificial pitches at present. Their work is under way and they will seek to evaluate the success of other grounds/developments and the costs of such projects.
“The work is still at an early stage so there’s no timescale for a definitive report at this juncture.”