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Donít Let The Green Grass Fool You


By Mark Forster
September 21 2019

BEFORE a rugby ball is kicked in anger on the new Butts Park Arena pitch, the annual glut of concerns about ‘plastic’ playing fields has begun.

Time will tell whether Coventry’s 3G offering is going to end the careers of those with less healthy knees, or shorten the playing days of those who ply their trade on it.

But given the knowledge we have about the health benefits and troubles of artificial grounds, I’m sure Coventry have looked into it from a playing point of view as seriously, if not more, as a commercial one.

One thing nobody can deny, it’s a positive move by the club, especially given the other sporting ties that have blossomed during the Jon Sharp era.

The old grass and mud pitch was bad enough for rugby at times, so goodness knows what the footballers of Coventry United and their opponents felt. Friends on social media who have had the opportunity to test the new ‘turf’ have voiced their surprise at the give in it, so maybe it won’t be as bad after all.

Some of us who played the game will remember rock hard pitches near the end of any given season, and sometimes at the start – not often given the great British summer.

I put a knee out playing against in a game against Derby one April many moons ago, tackled after rushing a kick to touch from my own 22. The ground underneath was like concrete, baked hard after a spring of hot sun.

I was stuck, in pain, as they took a quick line out and ran towards me. The resulting tackle I managed on one leg – big blokes liked to run straight at us little ones back then and I’m sure I was trying to get out of the way – and subsequent ruck seemed to pull off a miraculous medical trick. The knee clicked back into place courtesy of Derby’s entire front row, methinks.

Joking aside, the ground was so hard, one of our wingers swapped from studs to rubber pimpled cricket batting boots.

Rugby, for us nostalgics, was not all rain and mud and beer.

If there are issues with the new pitch, as a layman, I’m not sure of the remedies available. Ripping it up and starting again is not likely to be an option.

Mr Sharp hasn’t let us down yet. And if he does, he’s allowed a failure now and again. I doubt he will have done with the pitch. He’s proved a canny operator for Coventry and the club, its fans, owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

We’re told the surface will suit Cov’s intention of being a running side, an attacking team – the last thought would be to undo all the hard work with unnecessary injuries.

Saracens have an artificial pitch and they’ve done pretty well since it was installed. Wasps (a hybrid though) and Worcester also have invested in all-year-round surfaces, as did Newcastle Falcons, where Coventry will visit this term, following their relegation last season.

While the Rugby Players’ Association insists most players would rather play on grass, in an interview earlier this year, Damian Hopley, RPA boss, voiced common sense about injury fears linked to artificial turf.

'For the first time this year, the Injury Surveillance report has come out saying that injuries last longer on artificial pitches, lasting nine days longer on average,' he said.

'Of all the pitches, Newcastle is the one which is liked the most. When you think that before there was a bog at Kingston Park in December - a pitch that was really difficult to play on - Newcastle comes out of it well.

'But generally, the survey will show that most of our players are not happy with artificial pitches. We've talked about whether there should be just one surface used across the Premiership.'

He points to the hybrid turf already in existence at Sandy Park, Welford Road, Pennyhill Park Hotel (where the England team train), Twickenham, Murrayfield, the Millenium Stadium and Aviva Stadium as a good example, but then admits the cost is prohibitive to most clubs, even given the cash rich environment of the top table teams.

Cash always comes into it in the end.

Watching Yorkshire Carnegie’s woes from a distance is a timely reminder that we are lucky to even have a club. And since Mr Sharp stepped in, we’ve done pretty well.

Of course, Rowland Winter’s arrival and his choice in his coaching team, has brought a turnaround in the vibe, the confidence we fans have in our side. We’re still not the club we were back in the post-war golden years. Then again, didn’t some wit from Willenhall say Rome wasn’t built in a day? Maybe it was Baginton.

We’ve a new season ahead and may well come unstuck again. But we’re in the Championship, with a squad that’s a campaign to the wise, and should not fear relegation if things don’t go our way.

The fact we’re in the Championship at all is worthy of wonder.

Go back 10 years and Birmingham and Solihull, the club who edged us out in a bitter relegation battle from the Championship, have become an amateur side over the summer, forfeiting their position in the fifth tier of English rugby.

This is the club that humbled an all-star London Wasps in a Powergen cup tie in the noughties but then hit financial buffers like Coventry did.

Of the 11 clubs that played in that 2009/10 Championship, London Welsh have also exited national rugby, again through financial problems. Plymouth, Moseley and Rotherham Titans are in National League One.

Bedford Blues, Cornish Pirates, Doncaster Knights and Nottingham remain – along with Coventry – while big-spending Bristol and Exeter, now at the top of the tree thanks to planned, sustainable growth, are in the Premiership.

Some of the teams we were used to seeing at BPA during our own National League One years have dropped down. Esher, Caldy and Loughborough Students were all relegated last time out and join Old Albanian and Fylde in the fourth tier.

Cov haven’t done too badly at all, in times of greater risk and pressure.

The challenge now for Winter et al is to get this generation channelling their inner Cov warrior, stepping up like Wyman and Walker and Webb, Jacko and Juddy, Gardiner and Gitto. Players who set the standards.

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Donít Let The Green Grass Fool You
Discussion started by Unofficial Coventry Rugby (IP Logged), 21/09/2019 19:45
Unofficial Coventry Rugby
Unofficial Coventry Rugby
21/09/2019 19:45
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Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2019:09:27:20:27:42 by AdminBTCov.

HoboAl
HoboAl
21/09/2019 22:09
You play sport you get injured. Sometimes through contact with other players. Sometimes through contact with the surface.

Because of my age I have watched and played most my rugby and football played on traditional grass. I have seen grass produce lots of nasty injuries and career ending injuries. People accept that as part of the sport.

Introduce a new playing surface and people attribute every injury on it to that playing surface.

I dont think there is any or at least enough evidence at the moment to say artificial is worse than grass. Plus many artificial pitches are different from each other.

In recent years the BPA pitch has either been a mud bath or as hard as concrete. I have suffered nasty injuries from playing in mud and also on baked concrete hard pitches.

Having walked on the new BPA pitch I was impressed with the surface and the give or cushion it offers.

Time will tell. Keep an open mind. But it would be wrong, I believe to just think artificial causes more injuries than grass. Any surface can cause injury. So until there is a better study of both lets keep an open mind. I think we will see good competitive rugby on our new pitch and appreciate it as a better surface than recent years. We have an amazing groundsman in Eric who will as always deliver the best surface possible.

Moosemagic
Moosemagic
21/09/2019 23:06
Al, very well put.

Phil Reynolds

sk
rustyroof
22/09/2019 00:22
I read somewhere a pro player's view on playing on an artificial pitch which was that it was a bit harder on the body (felt afterwards), but this was mitigated by the fact that they only used it for matches and trained on a normal pitch during the week. I don't know whether Cov intend to train on the new pitch or not. Maybe they shouldn't.

MESSAGES->author
AdminBTCov
22/09/2019 07:13
Quote:
rustyroof
I read somewhere a pro player's view on playing on an artificial pitch which was that it was a bit harder on the body (felt afterwards), but this was mitigated by the fact that they only used it for matches and trained on a normal pitch during the week. I don't know whether Cov intend to train on the new pitch or not. Maybe they shouldn't.
As I understand it, with regular and appropriate maintenance (and Eric has the appropriate toolset, apparently) this is largely irrelevant.
One of the stated benefits, for Cov, of an AGP, is that they can cease their nomadic tendencies in search of training facilities.
I don't see them forsaking that.

sk
rustyroof
22/09/2019 12:23
No doubt they know what they are doing. Personally I would still be a bit wary of the accumulative effect of training on top of playing on the harder surface in terms of stress injuries. I wonder what approach teams like Sarries and Glasgow have.

HoboAl
HoboAl
22/09/2019 14:57
Quote:
rustyroof
No doubt they know what they are doing. Personally I would still be a bit wary of the accumulative effect of training on top of playing on the harder surface in terms of stress injuries. I wonder what approach teams like Sarries and Glasgow have.

It is not a hard surface though? It has more give than a hard grass pitch at this time of year.

BackTenRef?
BackTenRef?
22/09/2019 15:23
Iíd rather play on a nice level predictable surface than a hardening pitch thatís still got bumps underfoot from the winter. Donít underestimate the springiness of the rubber crumb. Bigger guys donít like it because itís very fast, therefore collisions are heavier too

Cov_InPeace
Cov_InPeace
22/09/2019 20:52
As per Mark's article, the science, currently at least, seems to suggest that you don't necessarily get a higher frequency of injuries on artificial turf, but the ones that do occur take longer to resolve (to me that implies that they're probably more serious).

Personally speaking, I don't think there's a better surface to play on than a well-maintained grass pitch, but it doesn't really work for multiple-use as we've seen.

I suppose the truth is that there is a degree of sacrificing player well-being for utility with 4G pitches, but then as others have pointed out there have been poor quality grass pitches for a long time too (not ours, obviously!) winking smiley, and it was rare that anyone complained about them from a player safety point of view.

My pet hate was always partially thawed mid-winter pitches, three-inches of slippery mud on one side (where the ref had checked, pre-game) and rock-hard with sharp bits (where he hadn't!). smiling smiley

Diesel74
Diesel74
22/09/2019 21:08
Quote:
Cov_InPeace
My pet hate was always partially thawed mid-winter pitches, three-inches of slippery mud on one side (where the ref had checked, pre-game) and rock-hard with sharp bits (where he hadn't!). smiling smiley

Oh gosh, playing many years ago, in a driving blizzard, with the pitch already hardened from the cold snow, so tough that studs made no difference...

Or the days when heavy fog meant you couldn't see the halfway line from the 22! Always interesting for a full back smiling smiley

As I got to play at a higher standard, the refs would call such games off - but it was all part of the great rugby journey smiling smiley

Mark

HoboAl
HoboAl
23/09/2019 17:18
I remember players trying to convince refs to keep games on. "That will thaw out once we start running on it!"

I was once subbed after 5 minutes without touching the ball. Snapped my ankle ligaments on a baked pre season pitch. I managed to find a harded winter rut hiding under the lush summer grass.

First game back after ligament damage last season ....but the other ankle! I wasn't a happy bunny.

Diesel74
Diesel74
29/09/2019 19:58
A quick update....

Rowland Winter very graciously spent some time with us after the win, taking us on to the surface and talking up what it means to the club.

He talked figures, which I haven't seen elsewhere and so won't divulge, but the pitch should more than pay for itself within three years; it has a computerised side to aid Eric and his team in treating it, is well watered to reduce friction burns and has a padded aspect to shield players from awkward injuries we used to associate with such pitches.

It was clear that player safety had been a big factor in the particular choice of pitch - far from the cheapest - and there was significant interest in the same surface and same contractor from a Premiership club.

Rowland also stressed it met every rugby, football and several other sport guidelines.

But then given his enthusiasm for all things Cov, I reckon he could sell double glazing to Ted Moult.

Certainly, he won me over.

Mark

erick richardson
erick richardson
30/09/2019 15:13
Lets just enjoy the "Rugby" ... We now have the chance to play a different type of game (Sure the coaching staff are all over it?) a poster earlier asked if "The Boys" train on the pitch, the simple answer is YES and they have been since they day of handover. They train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and have a full day at the club, at least 30/40% of that time spent on the pitch. Hope that has answered the question.

Wrenmore
Leo
30/09/2019 16:28
Just a brief comment, further to a valid post from HoboAl.

I have almost drowned on wet pitches at the bottom of ruck's in the 1980, 'received some broken and cracked bones on the hard ones too. My knees are now totally b*&&*23d and I did it all on grass.

With philosophical contemplation I feel that playing sport most of this life has been great preparation for the pains and agony's of the inevitable ageing process !

I will miss those mud baths though. How many of us witnessed the one at Brickfields , Plymouth a few years back ?

Happy days ...........................................:-)

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