MURRAYFIELD’S pitch will be transformed into a hybrid grass park in time for next season, the Scottish Rugby Union has announced.
The pitch has been hit by a parasite infection this season which, coupled with the wet winter, has seen it cut up badly during Scotland and Edinburgh games.
Concerns over the pitch saw the SRU announce last month that Edinburgh’s RaboDirect Pro12 fixture against Ospreys on February 28 might be moved elsewhere to allow the ground to recover in between Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match against England and Scotland’s other home fixture in the RBS 6 Nations, against France on March 8.
The replacement surface, Desso Grassmaster, is a natural sports grass pitch reinforced by millions of artificial turf fibres, which is said to have a faster recovery than pure grass, allowing stadia to host more than 40 fixtures in a season.
The Scottish Rugby Union described its installation as the biggest single investment at Murrayfield since the stadium was redeveloped in 1994.
The SRU’s director of management services, Mark Laidlaw, said: “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.
“We are making this significant investment because, as we’ve said previously, we are concerned at the problems our pitch and others within the UK and beyond have experienced of late and feel that a reinforced surface is now required to meet the demands of professional rugby.
“We have been affected by a parasitic infection this season and the challenges of keeping Murrayfield accessible in probably the most challenging rugby climate in the northern hemisphere.”
The SRU last month described the pitch’s worm problem as “manageable” after treatments that included spraying the grass with garlic and planting sugars to stimulate growth.
The new park will be based on hybrid pitches already in place at some of the sport’s top venues, including Twickenham, the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth and the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Most of the major football grounds in England, including Wembley, have hybrid pitches too and the Murrayfield grass will be the same as the surface at the Liberty Stadium, home to both Ospreys and Swansea City.