New Zealand is to allow professional footballers to play on grass fields in the country’s capital and will begin phasing out the use of synthetic turf.
The move comes after a decade of lobbying from New Zealand players, who say they are sick of seeing their skills used in artificial turf, which is more expensive than grass.
But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government had taken a “fresh approach” to tackling the issue.
“We are not going to allow the use and abuse of synthetic grass and we’re not going stop using it,” she said.
“But we are making sure it’s fair, it’s sustainable and it’s safe for players and for the country.”
The government will set up a pilot program to test the use, with players and officials from the Rugby Union Union, and the National Rugby League, given the go-ahead.
“This is about giving a clear direction to the players and their supporters to be clear with them, they need to be on the side of this issue,” she told reporters.
“It’s about making sure we have the best possible training facilities to support these players to have the maximum amount of time they can play on a grass field.”
New Zealand has been one of the first countries to introduce artificial turf in the game after the World Cup.
It’s a new type of turf that was created from a mixture of grass and synthetic fibres, which are less flammable than real grass.
The government said the pilot program will last up to two years.
The change will not affect the use or safety of professional rugby players, including Super Rugby and the Auckland Sevens.
The Rugby Union and the NRL did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Peter Chubb said the club’s new players would be given a “clear and direct” instruction on how to use the new field.
“I’m hopeful that there will be an increase in the number of players from the clubs that are in the pilot that will have a greater appreciation of what this can be and how it can help their careers,” he said.
“There’s no doubt there are a lot of Kiwis that feel they are at a disadvantage playing on grass, but we are going to make sure that we give them that guidance.”
As long as the pilots work, there will always be grass on the field.
“In January, the Rugby Association of New Zealand (RAINN) issued a warning to rugby players to be aware of the dangers of synthetic, and urged them to use safer grass when possible.
It said the “growing use” of synthetic rubber, “is not an accident”.
It said synthetic grass had been used to fill in fields in New Zealand for decades.
It also said grass was the best choice for rugby players in the short-term, as grass was cheaper, quicker to remove water and would not rust.
New Zealand’s rugby players have been playing on turf for decades and the game was the mainstay of their families and their social life for many years.”
It will definitely be a bit of a challenge for the guys,” he told Radio New Zealand.
New Zealand’s rugby players have been playing on turf for decades and the game was the mainstay of their families and their social life for many years.
But rugby players said they had noticed the use had changed.
“The grass is a bit softer, it has a softer feel to it, so there’s not as much friction, so it’s easier to grip and to push,” Kiwi player Scott Alexander said.
Ruger League’s Ryan Russell said he had been told by players who had played on grass that they could “go a bit faster and more confidently” and that grass had “more of a feel”.
“But it’s definitely a challenge, you’re pushing yourself and it takes some getting used to, so you might need to adjust to it,” he added.
“If you’re in a hurry to get through a session, you might be pushing yourself a little bit too much.”
New Zealander Josh Dugan said the grass would not affect his performance.
“In my first two years playing rugby, I played on the grass and that’s where I started, so I don’t think it would be a big deal,” he joked.
“There’s a difference between getting on and off the grass.
It might take you a bit longer, but I can deal with it.”
Auckland Sevens’ Paul McBride said grass would give him a boost in speed.
The Rugby Association has been the target of several petitions calling for a boycott of the New Zealand Rugby League after the Rugby Football Union said it would no longer allow players to play in New York City.
The country’s top governing body also backed a petition calling for an end to the use in New South Wales and Victoria.
The NRL said the change was necessary to give the game “the best possible grass” for its players.”Our