The dramatic finale to the Rugby World Cup is just two days away. But organisers have been consulting with global turf experts since 2015 to ensure they were pitch-perfect for the tournament. The World Cup is running during Japan’s typhoon season too, so severe weather has created huge challenges for ground maintenance teams. But the stadiums have risen to the occasion magnificently. One pitch was even completely re-turfed just weeks before kickoff because it wasn’t up to scratch.
Five host venues in Japan now have hybrid turf in their stadiums. Combining natural turf with artificial turf – typically around 3% – makes pitches more robust. These are becoming popular over in the UK too, although super robust natural turf is still important.
England alone has around 1900 Rugby Union clubs and Sport England estimates around 170,200 people play rugby at least once a week. That’s a lot of grass taking a lot of abuse. Like all sports grounds, rugby pitches require care all year round, even when the playing season is at an end.
Good ground work
September brings the start of rugby season. Pitches need to be mowed regularly to keep grass at the right height (50mm – 75mm). Chain harrowing after fixtures repairs divots and gets the grass upright again. This is vital for good airflow and root aeration so soil can breathe and water can drain away (important for your lawn too). It also improves exposure to sunlight which manages fungi and bacteria too.
Autumn and winter feeds keep the cell walls and roots of grass happy and healthy. These should be a mix of nitrogen, phosphate and potash. And with so much rainfall in the UK, pitches need to be spiked with hand forks or slitteror aerators to encourage drainage.
Into December and January, the aim is to keep off the pitch as much as possible otherwise you risk doing more harm than good, but draining away standing water before it freezes is vital! As is chain harrowing, but keep it to a minimum. And in March it’ll be back to feeding again but this time with some nitrogen, lots of potash to strengthen roots, and no phosphate. April is the time to prepare for the end of the season. Having sand and grass seeds ready to go once the playing season has finished means you can start getting the pitch back to full health again. The pitch must be spiked and brushed with sand, before new grass seeds are sown. And a suitable feed nitrogen rich, enough phosphate and potash to last until November.
Through the summer months, the battle will be keeping the ground moist enough. But if you can do that, you’ll be in a good position when rugby season comes round again.
Did you know?
The Sapporo Dome stadium in Japan has been transformed into a rugby venue thanks to a sliding pitch.For its usual baseball matches, the stadium uses artificial turf. But for the Rugby World Cup, the baseball pitch has been rolled up and a natural grass pitch slides in to take its place. Watch the transformation here.
Not all grasses are created equal
If you’re a landscaper designing a sports ground or a communal green space, you need a trade supplier who can offer a durable and resilient turf.
Our pro sports turf is a specialist turf for sports fields, and any space that would benefit from a hard wearing grass. Our grass blend is quick to establish, has an excellent ability to recover, is hard wearing and disease resistant.