Why Edinburgh Rugby’s quick pitch and atmospheric new stadium can give them an advantage

Edinburgh Rugby opened their doors to the public at the weekend to give supporters their first experience of the club’s new stadium.

There were only a few hundred inside but they made enough noise to suggest the flit from the international pitch at Murrayfield should pay dividends, at least in terms of atmosphere.

Edinburgh have been rattling around the 67,000-capacity ground for too long and the move to their new home, built at a cost of £5.7 million on the back pitches, is long overdue.

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Newcastle Falcons will officially open the Edinburgh Rugby Stadium on Saturday in what will be Mike Blair’s first game as head coach of the capital club. Around 6,000 fans are expected which should generate plenty of noise.

Mark Bennett, left, with new Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS

Mark Bennett, the experienced centre, thinks the combination of the more intimate surroundings and the artificial pitch will play to Edinburgh’s advantage.

“It’s quick and the atmosphere will be nice in there,” he said. “It was good having fans in there today and actually having a wee sneak peek of what it’s going to be like next week. The pitch is brilliant. We’ve been training on it for a little while now and we’re getting used to it.

“Obviously we’re hoping it’ll be near enough full for some of the games over the next few weeks so I think it’ll be a cracking atmosphere in the place. It’s the perfect size for us and it’s an exciting time.”

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The view from behind the goal at the new Edinburgh Rugby Stadium which has a capacity of 7,800. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

It has a capacity of 7,800 of which 5,800 are seated, allowing a couple of thousand spectators to stand around the front. All four stands are close to the pitch, a far cry from BT Murrayfield where the width of an eight-lane running track separates the west stand from the playing surface.

Bennett is an old hand when it comes to artificial pitches having experienced Scotstoun’s transition to plastic while at Glasgow Warriors. The Scotland international has no concerns about injury issues and thinks the players will adapt quickly.

“That’s the first time we’ve been on it when it’s been wet,” he said of Saturday’s session. “It does get greasy but it’s something we’ll get used to.

“It’ll feel strange for the first little while but then it’ll also feel strange for any visiting teams so hopefully that’ll give us a little advantage.

Jamie Ritchie on the charge during Edinburgh Rugby's open training session at their new stadium. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS

“I’ve never had any issues with the pitch. Obviously I played on it for a while at Glasgow and I enjoy playing on them. I think it’ll be fun, it’ll keep everything quick and you know you are getting good footing underneath you.”

Blair wants Edinburgh to play a speedier brand of rugby on the pitch and the general consensus is that he will be more attack-minded than his predecessor, Richard Cockerill. It’s a gameplan which should suit Bennett.

“We’ve been doing a lot of skill work, doing the basics,” said the centre. “Basics done well will create a lot of chances and it’s down to us to take them. We’re doing a lot of tempo games, trying to speed the game up - it’s been hard work but really enjoyable.

“Mike was a really attack-minded player and the detail he is bringing to what we’re wanting to do in attack has been excellent so as a club we’re all really excited for the next few weeks.”

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