No matter the level of rugby being played the field type will fall into one of two categories:
- Match venue
- Training venue
A dedicated rugby stadium venue will likely have significantly less use time than a multi-sport venue ,which will likely have less usage time than a public area.
The usage levels should be the primary driver of both pitch design and maintenance regime.
If building an indoor facility or a facility with a roof, World Rugby strongly recommends a minimum height of 37m from the pitch surface to the supports/roof structure to minimise the risk of ball contact with the roof.
Training venues will be expected to withstand a significantly higher usage level than match venues and should be designed and maintained accordingly.
It is crucial to ensure that training venues are of a high quality as players usually spend more time training than playing matches. At the elite level training can take up 90 per cent of a player’s exposure).
For training venues where specific activity is intended to be undertaken (for example, scrum machine areas), there may be additional considerations for the surface to account for the likely wear and tear on the surface.
If an artificial turf surface is to be installed, it must comply with Regulation 22 to be used for rugby. Regulation 22 does not differentiate between training and match venues or between levels of the game.
Deciding on the orientation of a field can have a large impact on player performance. It is generally recommended that a match pitch is orientated with the centre line (goalpost to goalpost) at an angle of -75° to 20° with North being 0° in the northern hemisphere and at an angle of -20° to 75° with South being 0° in the southern hemisphere. This will minimise the potential impact of the sun on players during use.
It is also worthwhile to consider prevailing wind directions to shelter the pitch where possible.
In built-up stadia, the sun and wind may not be a factor so more flexibility is available. It is worth considering the ability to grow grass in these stadia and whether additional technologies (irrigation and grow-lighting) would be needed.
Match venues must comply with Law 1 of the Laws of the game. Unions have discretion to allow dimensions outside of the ranges described in Law 1 for non-international matches. Where an international match is to be played on a venue that does not meet the dimensions of Law 1 then dispensation must be sought from World Rugby.
When measuring the dimensions of a pitch, the following apply:
- The touchlines are not included when measuring the width
- The try-lines are measured as part of the in-goals and not the length of the field
- The 22m line is part of the 22m area (again, the try-line is not)
- The 10m line is measured from the mid-point of the halfway line and the 10m line is not part of this measurement.
For match venues, the following additional equipment will be required:
- Rugby goalposts should comply with Law 1 of the Laws of the game. The recommended height of the goalposts is 13-17m and they should comply with EN16579.
- Rugby goalposts need to be installed in sockets buried under the ground. These sockets should be deep enough to securely anchor the goalposts and ensure they pose no risk to players in high winds.
- Where sockets are used on artificial turf facilities, the lids must be covered with the exact product (shock pad, carpet and infills) as the rest of the field for use when the posts are not in place and other sports are being played.
- Unions may permit rugby posts which are supported off the field to avoid the need to install sockets.
- Goalpost padding
- Padding should extend at least 1.5m from the ground and must not be thicker than 300mm from the exterior post surface in any direction.
- Padding should be tested using ASTM F3146 and have a critical fall height of ≥1.3m.
- Flags marking the corners of the in-goals should be placed on the intersection of the relevant lines
- All other flags should be set at least one metre back from the touchline.
For training pitches, these may be required along with other specific equipment.
World Rugby strongly recommend a minimum run-off of five metres around all rugby pitches. This can be reduced but should only be done so if a full risk assessment is completed and actioned to ensure no additional risks for players. World Rugby will, generally, not permit any international match to be played in a venue with run-offs less than 3.5m. In exceptional circumstances and depending on the venue infrastructure, this can be reduced to three metres.
Where possible the run-off surface should be the same as the pitch surface and where this is not the case, it should be clear to players that they are moving to a different surface.
If artificial turf is to be used in the run-offs, then it must be compliant with Regulation 22. Some of the requirements are lessened for run-offs. For the avoidance of any doubt, the in-goal areas are not part of the run-offs.
World Rugby recognise the frequent desire to place a rugby field within a running track. There are a few things to keep in mind when planning such projects:
- Tracks can be designed with a double radius on the bend (consult World Athletics technical documentation for details) which will shorten the length of available grass but widen the width. These double bend tracks allow a Law 1 compliant field to be laid within a running track and provide sufficient run-offs without the need for extensions (assuming a risk assessment is completed).
- For single radius bend tracks, it is not possible to fit a pitch that complies with Law 1 and that does not need extensions in the corners. These pitches usually do not meet the width requirements of Law 1. To do this, extensions will be required to square off the area and in some situations all along the touchline.
Excess water must be vacated from the pitch in the most efficient and fastest possible way, especially during match day. A drainage system will allow play in rainy seasons and reduce damage to the grass.
Drainage design is a specialist business, and an experienced drainage expert should be part of the design team. Drainage design generally involves installing a network of field drains that link the free-draining root zone to drainage outlet points around the ground. Design considerations, such as pipe material, pipe depth, drain spacing and type and depth of backfill will be customised for each ground.
The design and construction should look to incorporate Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDs) to ensure that drainage water from site does not overload local water courses. National and local guidance should be sought to understand local restrictions.
The chosen design will determine the overall performance of the pitch in multiple key aspects:
- Usage intensity (hours) and frequency (recovery time)
- Playability (hardness, levelness, traction, speed)
- Safety (hardness, traction)
- Predictability (with a goal of zero surprises, zero cancellations)
- Maintenance cost
Although soil conditions and available resources vary significantly between countries and locations, a typical sports field design will be comprised of four layers:
- Root zone profile
- Irrigation system
The sub-base represents the foundations of the sports field. It is critical the sub-base is thoroughly consolidated to ensure there will be no future subsidence. In general, the sub-base and the root zone upper surface must have the same slope. The desired final slope can vary depending on design but is usually no more than one per cent for top level sport. The gradient can be from centre to sides, an envelope-type design or as a tilted plane. Evenness of a sub-base is also critical and should have no deviations greater than 10mm under a three-metre straight edge.