The SRU’s planned new hybrid pitch will restore Murrayfield’s battered reputation, according to the company preparing to rip up the diseased turf at Scotland’s home of rugby.
Desso Sports Systems, global pitch experts, have already installed a similar “Grassmaster” surface at the grounds of Six Nations rivals England and Ireland, as well as football clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool.
Murrayfield will again be in the spotlight this afternoon when Scotland host France, just weeks after the defeat by England when critics moaned that the heavy pitch threatened to make a mockery of such a high-profile sporting occasion. Some argued the SRU should have been forced to move the game away from their Edinburgh residence, while players on both sides hit out at the state of the surface in Scotland’s dispiriting 20-0 loss.
The weather in the build-up to the visit of France has not been as poor as before the England game but the ongoing issue with nematodes, root-eating roundworms, is again expected to cause problems, particularly at set scrums, when great chunks of grass have been churned up in previous games.
The SRU have already announced their decision to replace the pitch in time for next season with a reported £1.25 million hybrid surface, which reinforces natural grass with millions of artificial fibres and, it is claimed, can withstand three times as much playing time as natural grass. The firm standing by to move in next month to begin laying the first pitch of its kind in Scotland is confident their product can ensure the problems are eliminated.
“I think you can look at the success at Twickenham and be confident Murrayfield will get exactly the same,” said Alex Stead, the UK sales manager for Desso. “The level of work from the contractors is excellent and the product itself will ensure that Murrayfield will be back as one of the best in the UK. Our pitch is being used by 14 of the 20 English Premier League teams, including the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal and its starting to become the system for top-performance facilities, especially dual-use stadia. I’m very confident that Murrayfield will be able to boast of a fantastic pitch and hopefully other grounds in Scotland will see the benefits and follow suit.
“Nematodes are common throughout the UK, it’s about how you eradicate or manage the problem. We have had facilities in the past which have suffered from this but they have always been able to manage it. But the pitch will be completely taken out and a new pitch built, so hopefully there won’t be any nematode problem left, and we are confident the fact the artificial fibre gives the grass root an ‘anchor’ will ensure the pitch will retain grass cover.”
The same type of hybrid pitch was laid at Twickenham last year and the RFU’s head groundsman, Keith Kent, has declared himself thrilled with the its ability to withstand the rigours of a modern-day international venue, which has to cope with rugby and other money-spinning events.
“We had our Desso pitch installed last year as part of wider upgrade works,” said Kent. “We host a number of events here each year, so it is important to have the best and most durable playing surface. With our new pitch we now have less repair work and better results after rugby games or concerts.
“The old pitch was on the old 1910 allotments, with four inches of fibre-sands on top with five-metre drains. It served the game remarkably well but was ageing and the drainage slowing, sometimes leaving standing rainwater. We’re really pleased with the results and think the pitch is in great condition. It’s firm and takes a good stud and we’ve had lots of positive feedback from players about it.”