Rugby: No Sandy issue for the world 10s

Rugby: No Sandy issue for the world 10s
The team captains involved in this weekend's Rugby World Club 10s as well as their coaches have given their approval for the National Stadium pitch

Sandy pitch? Not a bother.

As the new 55,000-seater National Stadium gears up to welcome the rough and tumble of the Rugby World Club 10s this weekend, eight of the world's best teams have shrugged off any suggestion that the pitch is unplayable.

The 1.33-billion Sports Hub will open its doors on Saturday for a two-day rugby tournament featuring the likes of Australia's Brumbies, the Auckland Blues of New Zealand and the Singapore-based Asia Pacific Dragons.

There were concerns a month ago that the venue, in particular the hybrid artificial-natural pitch, would not be ready in time for the event.

The stadium infrastructure has since been completed, but the pitch remains a conspicuous work in progress.

Yesterday, during the World Club 10s press conference at the Stadium, the team captains got a first-hand look at the pitch, which sported more sand than grass.

All doubts were then put to rest.

"(There are) no issues with the pitch," said Faatonu Fili, captain of the Biarritz Olympique team from France.

"Once the whistle goes, everything will be forgotten and only rugby is on our minds.

"Besides, I'm sure us and the other teams have played on worse surfaces before. It's not like we are playing football; this is rugby."

Greg Gillin, the senior director of stadia at the Singapore Sports Hub, said that all the parties involved are happy with the progress of the pitch.

Players' safety

He said: "It's all systems go (as far as) the playing area is concerned. All the parties involved, including the teams, are satisfied that the condition of the pitch is at a level we are all comfortable with.

"The coaches of the teams had a feel of the pitch and they are people with vast experience.

"They would be the first to complain if things are not right because at the heart of the matter is the players' safety.

"In fact we had an inspection of the pitch last week and a representative of the International Rugby Board was also present."

Jon Phelps, the managing director of Carinat Marketing, the company which organised the tournament, admitted the playing surface did not have a "perfect, green look" - but said it did not mean perfect rugby could not be played on it.

An estimated 12,000 to 13,000 tickets have been sold as of Tuesday and Phelps is optimistic that more tickets will be snapped up on match days.

"Whatever the crowd figures, I will be happy," he said.

"There is no benchmark to measure up to, because this is the first year of the tournament.

"We (the tournament) will be here for the long haul and, after the weekend's action, I expect those who are here at the stadium to talk about it and share their experience.

"That will in turn stir the interest of those who missed it."

This article was first published on June 19, 2014.
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