AAMI Park might be turfed out
The Wallabies will not return to AAMI Park if the surface at the Melbourne venue does not significantly improve, says Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver.
England’s series-clinching 23-7 win on Saturday night was watched by a record crowd, but they were forced to watch a number of reset scrums as the surface capitulated, with huge divots being thrown up.
Referee Craig Joubert was seen to apologise to both skippers during the game over the state of the AAMI Park turf and even though there is an agreement for the national team to play there in 2017, Pulver said yesterday that was now in doubt.
“The playing surface was clearly not up to the standards required for international rugby,” he said.
“The issue with the stability of the turf during scrums has existed throughout the Super Rugby season and despite the work done on the surface by Melbourne Olympic Park Trust prior to last night’s Test, the end result was simply not good enough.
“The venue is obligated to provide a playing surface which is safe for the playing of international rugby and clearly this was not delivered upon.”
England’s home ground of Twickenham is one of a number around the world which has a hybrid surface, meaning the turf can withstand the number of scrums in a typical rugby game.
Pulver said the ARU would ask an independent assessor to make the call on the surface and whether the Wallabies should return and also floated the idea of bringing in the hybrid turf.
“I have suggested previously that the stadium should investigate a hybrid playing surface, similar to the one used at Twickenham, which is 90% grass and 10% synthetic and stood up superbly to the rigours of the Rugby World Cup,” he said.
“AAMI Park must investigate all technology available to improve the surface.
“If we don’t have satisfactory progress in the coming months, we’ll need to revisit our agreement with them for 2017.
“We want to work with the venue to ensure the stadium is suitable to host rugby matches moving forward.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and skipper Stephen Moore said the surface was not to blame for the loss on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, with England coach Eddie Jones saying his team wanted to go for a clean sweep by winning Saturday’s clash at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Moore said there would be no lack of motivation for the Wallabies.
“We play for our people and our jersey, it’s another opportunity to put the jersey on and show what it means to us,” he said.
“Never a lack of motivation, every time it’s special.
“Gutted about the series but it’s another opportunity to improve during the week and put that jersey on.”