Jake White wary of risk of artificial pitches

Jake White wary of risk of artificial pitches

It’s a regular topic for debate in rugby – do players face a greater injury risk on artificial pitches?

It came into focus again in the United Rugby Championship as Bulls boss Jake White said he would not be picking his fly-half Johan Goosen – who is fancied for a Springboks recall – for their match with Glasgow this weekend, as the Warriors play on an artificial pitch. Goosen, you may remember, ruptured his knee last season, playing on the artificial pitch in Cardiff.

Jake White said of the call: “I’m not going to risk Johan on a 4G pitch. They don’t play any Test rugby on those pitches for a reason, it’s because more players get injured on that surface.

“He has just come back from 11 months out after a horrific injury on that sort of pitch. I took the decision myself, I did not ask him. If you look at the history of those 4G pitches, there have been a lot of injuries and I don’t want to take the risk.

A scampering Johan Goosen (Getty Images)

“I have confidence in Chris Smith and Morne Steyn, they have done exceptionally well the times we have called on them.”

Glasgow switched to a synthetic pitch for the 2016-17 season – the term before the condition of the pitch (often waterlogged) meant that they had to move an 1872 Cup match with Edinburgh to Murrayfield, two games to Kilmarnock FC’s artificial pitch while one other match was postponed. An artificial surfacealso made sound economic sense to the club, in a country where weather conditions can regularly turn for the worse.

In 2019, we ran a Face-off: Are artificial pitches good for rugby? In it, former lock Ed Slater who talked of aches and pains the next day and concluded: “I understand the business advantages of 4G pitches, but from a performance point of view it feels inconsistent. You go from good grass surfaces at Exeter or Northampton, to 4G at Saracens, which is slightly different to the 4G at Worcester.

Jake White wary of risk of artificial pitches

Ivan van Zyl wears leggings on Sarries’ artificial field (Getty Images)

“We need to be more consistent. Right now, the surfaces are so different, it may affect the standard of rugby.”

In 2021, World Rugby cleared the wearing of tights and leggings for male players, in reaction to growing complaints about burns and abrasions on artificial playing surfaces in the elite game. Previously only female players were permitted to wear

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