BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
THE Scottish Rugby Union have declared themselves ‘very pleased’ with the BT Murrayfield pitch that won praise from Scotland football captain Scott Brown earlier this week.
After winning his 50th international cap in the friendly win over Denmark, Brown was highly critical of the surface at Hampden and expressed concerns it could adversely affect the Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final later this month.
Hampden bosses were forced to relay the pitch for the fourth time in only seven years in advance of last month’s League Cup final between Ross County and Hibernian, but Brown branded it ‘bang average’ just a matter of weeks down the line.
With the national stadium due to host Queen’s Park’s league encounter with Stirling Albion this weekend, the Petrofac Training Cup final between Rangers and Peterhead a week on Sunday and the Scottish Cup semi-final between Dundee United and Hibs just 24 hours before Celtic and Rangers meet on April 17, the turf will not get much rest in the coming days.
The perennial problems will be familiar to rugby followers after the difficulties experienced with the BT Murrayfield pitch across the country in Edinburgh.
Two years ago, faced with an infestation of nematodes – root-eating roundworms – the SRU opted to spend an estimated £1.25 million on replacing the surface with a hybrid pitch, which reinforces natural grass with millions of artificial fibres and, it is claimed, can withstand three times as much playing time as natural grass.
Similar ‘Desso Grassmaster’ pitches are in use at the likes of Twickenham, Wembley, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Liverpool’s Anfield and the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Brown got a taste of the BT Murrayfield surface in 2014 when Celtic faced KR Reykjavik and Legia Warsaw in Champions League qualifiers at the stadium due to Parkhead’s use as a venue for the Commonwealth Games.
Brown commented this week: “Murrayfield is exceptional, so much better than that (Hampden). It’s flat and nice. When we played on it for the qualifiers, it was unbelievable, one of the best pitches I’ve ever played on.”
BT Murrayfield has recently hosted Scotland’s Six Nations encounters with England and France, and doubles as Edinburgh Rugby’s home ground, and the stadium’s problems appear to be a thing of the past.
An SRU spokesperson said: “We are very pleased with how the pitch at BT Murrayfield has performed since it was relaid a couple of years ago.
“It’s worth noting that our groundstaff recently won the UK groundstaff of the year award. They are recognised as the best in the business.
“The pitch has stood up to all the play and events that have taken place on it over the months and we are delighted.”