By Julian Guyer
Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) chiefs are to install a new hybrid pitch for the start of next season after an attack by parasites on their once-pristine Murrayfield headquarters.
But the SRU’s move – which they said on Tuesday was “the single biggest investment in the Edinburgh ground since the stadium was reconstructed in 1994” – will be too late for Saturday’s showpiece Six Nations clash with England.
The pitch was damaged by nematodes in the build-up to last year’s November internationals and Scotland’s ensuing matches against Japan, South Africa and Australia featured several worrying scenes.
Front-row forwards found the ground being churned up underneath them at scrums while, even in open play, players were unable to keep their footing.
Various treatments were tried, the most publicised being spraying the pitch with garlic.
So concerned was the SRU by the situation it moved Edinburgh’s club games to another ground but doubts remain as to how the pitch will cope with the rigours of international rugby when England visit on Saturday.
Now the SRU is to follow the example of their counterparts in England and Ireland by installing a Desso surface of the kind already in place at London’s Twickenham and Dublin’s Lansdowne Road.
Desso pitches, made up of 60 per cent grass interwoven with 40 per cent fibre, have also been put in by Premier League clubs Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
They are said to have a much faster recovery rate than grass, allowing grounds to host more than 40 major fixtures a season.
“We are doing this primarily because this hybrid pitch is widely recognised as the best grass surface in the sporting world and we all want to see the Murrayfield playing surface restored to the pristine condition for which it is renowned,” Scottish Rugby’s director of management services, Mark Laidlaw, said in a statement.
Newlands in Cape Town, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth and the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin have also had the Desso pitch installed, and the Liberty Stadium in south Wales shared by Ospreys and Swansea City soccer club.