The RPA have been active in responding to our memberships feelings towards artificial grass pitches (AGP’s) for some time now.
The 2019 RPA Membership Survey found that 52.4 % of our members feel that it is unacceptable for elite level/Premiership matches to be played on AGP surfaces. As a reaction to this finding the RPA presented a paper to the Professional Game Board in 2019, detailing some of our members concerns around the usage and maintenance standards of AGP surfaces. These concerns aligned with injury data presented via the Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project (PRISP) showing that the severity and burden of injuries sustained on AGP’s is increased. As a result of this RPA action on our members behalf, a moratorium was put in place relating to the laying of any new AGP’s in the Gallagher Premiership to allow the additional injury risk over and above playing on natural turf to be better understood. In addition to this, the frequency of testing of AGP’s in the Gallagher Premiership was increased. This moratorium ended in Summer 21’.
In September 21’ an RPA member raised further specific concerns around the abrasions being encountered when playing on AGP’s. This member suggested the solution of wearing compression leggings as commonly worn by players when training. It has been part of World Rugby regulations for some time that only female players could wear such garments. The RPA raised this query with International Rugby Players who then successfully lobbied World Rugby to amend Law 4 to allow all players to wear tight leggings of a specified construction on any surface. The change to law 4 came into effect in October 21’, just one month after initial contact.
This common sense approach to innovation and reflecting the needs of modern day professional players is a hugely positive example of the work that is done on behalf of our membership. It is important to the RPA that as the professional game thrives and innovates that those administrating the game do likewise and ensure that the welfare of our members is as advanced as it can be.
The RPA will continue to strive to ensure that our members play on the best possible surfaces under World Rugby regulation. All can surely agree that elite rugby competitions should be taking place on elite level playing surfaces which are maintained to an extremely high standard.
Following the law change, players have since said:
Max Malins, Saracens: “The amount of looks and comments I got, was exactly what I expected. It was coming from all different angles, but you’ve got to own it.”
Max Malins, Saracens: “The power of the tights!’’
Danny Care, Harlequins: “Wear the tights guys. Wear the tights”