29 July 2009

For rugby fans only

I confess to some mild irritation that the 2015 Rugby World Cup to be set in England will to some extent be played on football pitches, including Old Trafford, The Emirates, Anfield and St James. My objection lies not in the direction of the old antagonism between rugger and soccer but is grounded on the size of football pitches.

The maximum length of an IRB-approved international rugby ground is 100 metres from goal-line to goal-line plus 2 x 22 metres for the in-goal areas, a total of 144 metres. Very few rugby grounds are actually this big but Murrayfield, Twickenham, Lansdowne Road and the Millenium Stadium are not far away.

By contrast, here are the lengths of the afore-mentioned football pitches:
Old Trafford 106m
The Emirates 104m
Anfield 101m
St James 101m

Given that the minimum size of an in-goal area is 10 metres, and the 22 metres between goal line and 22 metre line is sacrosanct, the size of the playing surface between 22 metre lines has to be reduced in the above cases to between 42 and 37 metres, compared with the 56 metres expected at an international rugby ground.

Thus the rugby play becomes cramped and the aesthetics of the game are diminished. That this should happen in the showcase of international rugby seems disappointing.

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