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'Several players have burns and grazes they wouldn't get on grass'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Rob Baxter has reported that Jack Nowell wasn’t alone in paying a painful price for his involvement in last weekend’s Gallagher Premiership win for Exeter on the newly laid artificial surface at Gloucester. The England back tweeted a gruesome picture of his knees two days after the game and wrote: “Vaseline and plasters for the rest of the season it is then.”

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Exeter boss Baxter has now reported that Nowell wasn’t the only player nursing those types of burn wounds following the visit to Kingsholm, but he refused to condemn the increasing use of what he calls “rubber crumb” surfaces. 

With the return of Saracens to the top flight and Gloucester deciding to switch to artificial in the off-season, it means that four of the 13 clubs in the Premiership now have non-grass surfaces. Plenty of players have had their say about artificial pitches, but Baxter was hesitant to fully wade into the argument because he sees the need for some clubs to have that type of a surface from a business perspective.    

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Jack Nowell lifts the lid on ‘New England’
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Jack Nowell lifts the lid on ‘New England’

“It’s a difficult one because I understand all the arguments from the teams that have got them based around how it helps the finances and the availability of the pitch,” said Exeter coach Baxter when asked by RugbyPass for his thoughts on Saracens, Gloucester, Worcester and Newcastle using artificial pitches in the Premiership.   

“But I do also wonder how four layers [divisions] of football insist on grass pitches and yet we can create one top league of good quality grass pitches. For me, that just seems odd that we can’t create that or that that is deemed that it doesn’t work. 

“There is enough being said by enough players for them [artificial pitches] to be a concern. Whether I am concerned about it personally or not is a bit irrelevant. There is enough being said by enough players that you would think it would be a little more looked into than it is. We don’t train or play on one. It’s not for me to talk about the pluses or minuses of it because I don’t have enough knowledge on it.

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“All I can say is we have several players who have got burns and grazes they wouldn’t have on a grass pitch but that is the only information I can give you. I can’t talk about other injuries or other issues that clubs are having because I don’t know. That is to be investigated by the clubs who are this rubber crumb all the time.”

With Newcastle due to Sandy Park next Saturday in the latest round of Premiership fixtures, Nowell will have had eight days between matches for his knees to sufficiently so that he can play again. “It’s more him being careful through the week to make sure that it heals, that he doesn’t risk infections and stuff like that. 

“Lads are on rubber crumb so much now they are kind of getting used to treating burns so there is a process it has to go through, but it is more about individual discomfort following a game that some of the lads don’t like. But as I said, it is very difficult to ask clubs who are on grass to make comments on clubs that are based on rubber crumb. The comments need to be directed to the teams that have got the crumbs.”

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