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Regulation 22: how does World Rugby test its 3G pitches?

By admin on January 31, 2018

Like many other sports, rugby has turned to artificial grass in its bid to increase participation around the globe. But when the surface the sport is played on breaks away from tradition, it is only right that World Rugby – the sport’s governing body – takes every possible step to ensure both the performance and wellbeing of its players are taken care of.

About Regulation 22

The rise of 3G rugby pitches has seen World Rugby introduce Regulation 22 – a standard relating specifically to the use of artificial grass for rugby. The fact that every artificial grass pitch the sport is played on has to comply with Regulation 22 standards means a stringent testing process is followed to ensure the pitch is suitable for the sport and those who play it.

So if you’re considering investing in a new 3G rugby pitch, what does this testing involve?

Two types of tests for rugby pitches

World Rugby’s testing protocol is effectively split into two categories – laboratory tests and field tests. Whereas laboratory testing will assess the quality and suitability of the artificial grass in isolation, field tests are there to ensure the product delivers to those same characteristics when installed.

Laboratory testing

The laboratory testing under Regulation 22 comprises the following five procedures:

  1. Identification – this very basic of tests is in place purely to ensure the surface installed matches the product that was tested in the lab, and vice-versa.
  2. Durability – using artificial abrasion, the pitch is subjected to the equivalent of five years’ typical wear. Once this is complete, it is then assessed for shock absorption, vertical deformation, and rotational resistance, all of which are vital characteristics of an artificial rugby pitch. Joint strength will also be measured at this point, to assess the force needed to destroy the joints where two pieces of the product are either sewn or glued together.
  3. Climatic resistance – the product is tested for how resistant it is to having its colour faded by weathering. While the product will be tested for UV, water, and heat resistance, this will be done alongside the normal forces involved in rugby, to ensure the playing surface will be resistant enough even when it has been subjected to tackles, rucks, and mauls. To make sure the pitch is resistant to stud damage and that players’ welfare is taken care of, Regulation 22 also stipulates a pile height requirement of 60mm.
  4. Player/surface interaction – player safety is paramount, so a number of tests are in place to protect those playing on an artificial rugby pitch. Shock absorption is tested to give the pitch the right balance between being soft enough to avoid injuries, but hard enough to prevent player fatigue. Head Impact Criteria (HIC) is also a vital measure of player safety, and any pitch tendered for and installed after 2011 will need to have a HIC of 1.3m. Surface stability, slip resistance, and rotational resistance are all measured to ensure player movement can take place naturally, without any heightened risk of injury or stress on the body. Meanwhile, with the typical rugby player spending a lot of time making contact with the pitch during a match, skin friction will be taken into account. Lastly, energy restitution is measured to determine how much energy is returned to the player through the surface.
  5. Ball/surface interaction – it’s important to make sure the bounce of the ball gives enough opportunity for players to control the ball as they would on a natural grass pitch. For this reason, testing also sees the height of the ball bounce measured when dropped on to the surface from a specified height.

Field testing

Once the 3G rugby pitch has been installed, a number of the tests already completed in a laboratory setting are repeated. The aim here is to make sure the pitch performs just as well in a real life setting as it did in a test house.

Identification tests, and those to assess both player/surface interaction and ball/surface interaction are repeated at a number of pre-determined positions across the pitch. For the majority, tests will be carried out at six different locations across the pitch, but for those looking to achieve the highest AAA rating, tests will be performed at 19 different locations.

Construction requirements – Regulation 22 also makes a set of constructional requirements mandatory for a 3G pitch. Firstly, the pitch needs to be even enough for players to be able to run without their stride being affected. Secondly, the sub-base needs to be permeable to ensure water can freely drain through the surface rather than collecting on the grass.

While the above provides a summary of the broad categories involved in each Regulation 22 testing criterion, it is advisable to read the full technical document for the specification of World Rugby Artificial Rugby Turf Performance.

Don’t forget, the full range of TigerTurf 3G rugby pitches is certified under World Rugby Regulation 22, making them a great addition to your club or school’s sports facilities.

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