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World Rugby statement: New research into artificial surface use

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)

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World Rugby is calling for research grant applications to help broaden understanding of the impact of the use of artificial surfaces at all levels of the sport. A statement read: “Artificial surfaces are a feature of both the elite and community games, facilitating accessibility to rugby on a global basis with production and testing subject to rigorous standards.

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“The new research fund will enable the international federation to focus on a further three key areas:

  • The impact on players of playing on a mixture of artificial and natural surfaces across a season;
  • How boots and other footwear interact with artificial surfaces;
  • The economic and social impact of the standards World Rugby requires for use of artificial turf within rugby.

“This new research fund is in addition to existing studies into artificial turf, funded by World Rugby, that are already in place. In 2020, World Rugby partnered with the University of Cardiff and Sports Labs to commission research into better tests for reducing skin abrasions. The findings of this work are expected to be published later this year.

“World Rugby regulations already require some of the highest standards for artificial surfaces in international sport and for pitches to be specifically designed for playing rugby. The international federation already works closely with preferred turf producers (PTPs), accredited test institutes (ATIs), member unions and player’s associations to ensure that playing on artificial surfaces represents no greater risk than a match played on natural grass.

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“Applicants are asked to contact research@worldrugby.org to express interest and to include a short one-paragraph summary of their proposed project and the relevant subject area. The deadline for submitting project plans is August 26.

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“The new research fund supports the delivery of World Rugby’s six-point plan to make rugby the most progressive sport in the world on player welfare. Innovation led by science and research is a key pillar of that plan with the results of successful research application further informing the way in which the sport moves forward on player welfare.”

Marc Douglas, the World Rugby game research and development manager, said: “World Rugby will always make the welfare of players our number one priority and we never stand still in this area. That is as true of our work on artificial surfaces as it is in all other areas of rugby.

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“Through these research grants, we are looking to better understand how to support players across a season playing on a mixture of surfaces and how boots might need to change to reduce injury. We also know that artificial surfaces will be key to growing rugby across the world.

“We want to better understand how World Rugby can ensure that our regulations make artificial surfaces just as safe as grass but at the same time don’t put up insurmountable barriers to those countries around the world who rely on artificial turf to grow the game.”

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