This document provides information on the testing protocols which are used for natural turf and to recommend the most appropriate approach which would be suitable for rugby at all levels of the game. Artificial turf surfaces are required to be tested against the requirements of Regulation 22 at least every two years.
There are two main approaches for testing protocols which are relevant for different levels of the game:
- Self-assessment/testing – carried out by the club’s grounds person at a frequency which is appropriate for general monitoring needs, and
- Independent assessment/testing protocols – carried out by an independent agronomist/technician.
The formal assessment is more appropriate for the elite levels of the game and for major competitions.
Assessment advice relative to playing level
The inverse pyramid fits with the requirement to set standards and mandate assessments/testing.
Ground staff may have equipment and will monitor their pitches routinely as good practice. This is becoming increasingly common in stadium and training ground venues. This guidance will set out what is normal and what is best practice.
Independent assessment approach
Competitions have been the subject of regulation for many years now. Furthermore, some clubs have engaged with independent consultants and test institutes to monitor and test their pitches/training venues to support ground staff in their work. This guidance will define harmonised requirements for tests that should be undertaken as a minimum for competitions and elite venues.
Current practice in the assessment of natural rugby pitches
The following table describes what type of testing/assessment of the rugby playing surface is currently being undertaken by the various turf management companies and test institutes. This exercise was undertaken to establish common practice and best practice.
Different assessment requirements for different playing levels
This guidance proposes three levels of assessment that are appropriate to three levels of play.
The equipment suggested for each of the three levels is outlined in the below table.
Equipment must be calibrated against established ISO 17025 laboratory standards. Where relevant standards for the assessment exist, these are highlighted in this document in the detailed description of each assessment.
- Measurements taken while on site for the Level 1 standard will include temperature range air/ground, humidity range, wind speed, soil moisture content at both 40 and 200mm and pH. This needs to be carried out with equipment calibrated to ISO 17025 (the main ISO standard used by accredited testing and calibration laboratories).
- For the quadrat/net grid, a typical frame size has internal dimensions of 750mm x 750mm and is divided into 100 squares of 75mm x 75mm. The frame can be to other dimensions; however, the internal divisions must be uniform.
- For water infiltration, the double ring infiltrometer must have an outer ring of 500mm diameter and an inner ring of 300mm.
- The corer used for mass root length and thatch depth should be capable of extracting a core at least 50mm in width and 200mm in depth.
- The studs used on the Traction assessment shall be in accordance with the drawing below. They shall be manufactured from plastic and have a Shore A Hardness of 96 2 (see manufacturers specification). After a maximum of 50 tests, the length of the studs shall be reviewed. If the visible length of any stud is found to be less than 11mm all shall be replaced.
Facilities or competition organisers should decide what level of assessment is relevant to them. Professional level facilities should aim to enable community level to be used throughout the year (between professional assessments).
There is no pass/fail level prescribed to unions in the assessment. Unions and competition organisers should, where possible, implement an expected performance level to achieve consistency between venues. Comparisons between pitches should only be made within the same level, not between them. This ensures that analysis is against consistent methodologies (i.e. a high-scoring elite field does not have an equivalent score on a professional field).
The following describes the guideline procedures for assessing natural grass rugby surfaces. The following elements should be considered during assessments.
Tests shall be completed in a continuous process, regardless of weather changes, with the conditions to be reported. If weather conditions make it impossible to undertake tests this should be clearly stated in the report, and a retest undertaken at another suitable time.
- The pitch should be presented in so far as is possible in a match-day condition
- Additional testing should be completed on the run-offs to ensure consistency with the rest of the field.
The assessor shall determine the location and orientation of test positions, though this must be noted with reference points for future comparison. Locations should include areas of high, medium, and low use/wear for rugby. Frequent high wear areas on a rugby field include:
- Centre of halfway line
- 22m line between the 5m and 15m lengthways lines
- 5m line between the 5m and 15m lengthways lines
A reference point should be noted so that continuity of assessment zones can be kept each time. For example, note on the layout the players’ entrance or stands or a simple North, South, East or West.
World Rugby would like to thank the following people who assisted in the creation of this guideline:
- Andy Cole
- Dan Duffy
- Dean Gilasbey
- Eric Harrison
- Charles Henderson
- David James
- Keith MacAuliffe
- Mark Major
- George Mullan
- Eric O’Donnell
- Neil Rodger
- Sebastian Ruggeri
- John Sorochan
- Christian Spring
- Dean Tingley
- Colin Young
A special thanks to the ground staff, led by Majella Smyth, at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin for their time and patience with the imagery.