Connacht broke in their brand-new 3G pitch when they hosted Munster at the Sportsground on Friday night.
The new all-weather surface was installed during the summer as part of Phase One of Connacht’s redevelopment of their facilities. This includes new LED floodlights, as well for a new high-performance centre and a brand new stand which will bring the Sportsground’s capacity to 12,000.
The use of 3G pitches is a topic which divides the rugby world. While it is beneficial to clubs as less games will be called off due to pitch conditions and more games can be played on the pitch, it has brought about it’s fair share of criticism too.
Connacht Rugby CEO Willie Ruane in a statement spoke about the advantages of the pitch, saying “there are many advantages to an artificial surface, not least that it enables us to remain in The Sportsground as both our training and playing base. The additional capacity that this surface provides will also give boys and girls across the province greater opportunities to play at the home of Connacht Rugby, and act as a beacon that future generations of players and supporters can be proud of”.
Connacht Rugby plan for the pitch to be used for underage school and club games, giving youth teams throughout Connacht the chance to play in the stadium.
On the other hand, many players find that the surface causes injuries. The pitch is very hard and has been attributed to knee ligament injuries. The pitch is also prone to leave nasty cuts on players’ legs which can be quite gruesome.
Prominent rugby players in England have spoken openly about their dislike of the surface, including England internationals Joe Marler, Jack Nowell and Alex Mithcell. Mitchell himself shared a gruesome image of his leg in a now deleted tweet after playing a game against Saracens on their artificial pitch in the StoneX Stadium.
Alex Mitchell – Northampton 9 – his leg after a game on 4G. Check out his Twitter comments; strong views. pic.twitter.com/opU0j1K5jw
— Anchorian (@Anchorian1) September 12, 2019
CEO of Rugby Players Ireland Simon Keogh stated that the rugby players union in Ireland does not have an official stance on 3G pitches, but assured that the pitch was up to standards.
World Rugby, the governing body for professional rugby globally, called for research to be done on the surface over the summer. They began a research project with the University of Cardiff in 2020 to reduce the amount of skin abrasions.