Increasingly, high-profile rugby competitions are being hosted on artificial turf fields. World Rugby have developed this document to assist facilities in the planning, preparation and delivery of a competition or match on artificial turf fields. It should be used for non-World Rugby tournaments as a guide but is mandatory for World Rugby run tournaments.

The intention of this document and Regulation 22 is to ensure that there is no additional risk to players when playing on artificial turf surfaces than those on good quality natural turf. There is no reason why any artificial turf field shouldn’t be able to achieve this if it has been designed to and tested to Regulation 22.

If you have any queries on the content of this document or on anything related to artificial turf please contact the Technical Services Department:

 

Planning

Procurement:

When a new surface is being installed for the event then World Rugby recommend that a Preferred Turf Producer (PTP) is engaged with to supply the artificial turf. The advantages of purchasing turf from a PTP is that there are additional safeguards and assurances provided because all PTPs are contracted to World Rugby to provide a turn-key service and continued support for their fields.

Testing:

Before any artificial turf field is considered for any level of rugby, either training or match, it must comply with World Rugby Regulation 22. Only fields which have a current test report and/or Regulation 22 certificate compliant with the Regulation. The first stage of planning is to ensure compliance has been verified by a World Rugby Accredited Test Institute within the previous two years.

Maintenance:

The field should have a complete maintenance log from the date of installation. The maintenance regime should be specific to the field and be devised in partnership with the turf manufacturer. Maintenance regimes should be designed in consideration of the usage levels of the field and the climate of the area. Not complying with maintenance requirements can in some cases invalidate the manufacturer’s warranty. In addition, if the usage levels of a field change then the maintenance regime should be adjusted to account for this, especially if it increases. It is important to ensure that usage limits specified by the manufacturer are not exceeded. Consultation with the manufacturer who designed the system is crucial.

There are two specific reasons for maintaining the field:

  1. Preserving the performance characteristics of the field to ensure that the field continues to perform in a manner which does not increase the risk to players.
  2. To ensure that the fibres are kept upright. Rugby is a sport where going to ground is an integral part of the game and so rugby players are at an increased risk of burns and abrasions from any surface. There has been an increase in the reports of burn and abrasion injuries on artificial turf in recent times and this is considered to be as a result of flat fibres which increase the surface contact area and friction between players and the surface. Brushing the field regularly will aid the fibres to regain their upright position after general use and people wearing flat-soled shoes on the surface.

Appendix One contains details of a suggested maintenance regime. This may not be suitable for all surfaces and is included as an example only.

Pre-Tournament

Testing

In addition to any previous testing, we recommend that a field being used for a World Rugby event be tested at least 3 months (although 1 month is preferred) prior to the tournament and in the case of the HSBC Sevens World Series, this must be done.

Maintenance

Maintenance should be conducted as per the regime and note taken of any prevalent conditions that are likely to be present during the event. Planning (in consultation with manufacturers and other experts) and duplicating the maintenance regime to be used in-competition in advance will assist in identifying any concerns or issues This should ensure that the field will be in optimum condition for the entire event especially during consecutive day, multi-match tournaments.

Watering

Another factor that affects the risk of burns and abrasions is the heat of the surface. Temperatures can reach excessive levels especially where the field is exposed to direct sunlight and wind (which can increase evaporation of surface moisture) during the highest temperatures of the day. There are a number of ways to reduce the risk of excessive surface temperatures. These include:

  • Use alternative infills which have lower specific heat capacities and thus do not heat up as easily as black SBR, for example.
  • Ensure the fibres are upright and casting a shadow on the infill while not trapping the heat
  • Reduce the temperature of the surface through watering
  • Avoid playing matches at times of the day when the surface temperature is likely to be high.

Watering the surface when it is already hot will not achieve the desired cooling effects. It is recommended to water the field early in the morning when the surface is cool to create a water source within the surface that can be topped up during the day to maintain lower temperatures. This topping up should be done as frequently as possible and take into account the weather conditions likely to be encountered during the event. Planning will allow for flexibility in any watering regime especially if the weather is warm.

In-tournament

Maintenance and Watering

The maintenance and watering regimes should be undertaken as planned while communication with teams and organisers to identify any areas of concern that can be addressed should enable adjustment of the regime prior to the event.

Many event schedules may not allow for full maintenance and watering regimes so additional work should be completed before play starts for the day and after play ends each day.

Finally, World Rugby recognise that facilities and Unions require support in this area and have additional information available on the player welfare website. For any further information we recommend contacting your Union who can assist or expedite the query to World Rugby.

These guidelines are important to ensuring acceptance of artificial grass surfaces at the elite level. It is important that organisers implement these proposals fully for the benefit of the players and the competition.