Worcester Warriors to switch to artificial pitch for 2016-17 season

Worcester Warriors plan to become the third Premiership team to play on an artificial pitch.

The all-weather surface, made by Italian firm Limonta Sport, will be laid in time for the 2016-17 season.

Saracens were the first to use an artificial surface in 2013, followed the next season by Newcastle Falcons.

But Sixways will be the first in the United Kingdom with an organic infill, rather than the more widely used rubber crumb made from shredded car tyres. 

"Our pitch is our most under-utilised asset," said Warriors chief executive Jim O'Toole. "It is currently being used for fewer than 100 hours per season.

"The structure of our existing playing surface means that we have to allocate eight to 10 weeks per summer to refurbish it, thus removing the possibility of summertime playing usage or commercial activity.

"This exciting development not only allows us to play more rugby at all levels on our biggest physical asset, but also allows us to establish new commercial revenue streams such as concerts, festivals and other non-rugby events.

"It is a significant investment on behalf of the ownership and is another step in our journey to make the business profitable in the long term."

Limonta Sport, who meet World Rugby guidelines, have installed more than 650 full-size sport fields over the past six years for professional football and rugby clubs all over the world.

Worcester safe from relegation 

Despite suffering their heaviest defeat of the season at Exeter on Saturday, Worcester are now safe from the threat of relegation.

Dean Ryan's side stand 10th in the Premiership, 16 points clear of bottom club London Irish, who have just three games left.

The four-match winning sequence which lifted them clear of trouble included a 15-14 victory over Newcastle on the artificial surface at Kingston Park.

Their only previous experience of an artificial pitch was a thumping 44-20 defeat by Saracens at Allianz Park in May 2014 - on the day the Warriors' most recent relegation from the the Premiership was confirmed.

 

First published www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby, 7 April 2016