Rugby sevens teams have major concerns over Las Vegas turf

By Campbell Burnes

The All Black Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens wore plenty of plasters due to the coarse surface at Sam Boyd Stadium. Photo / Getty
The All Black Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens wore plenty of plasters due to the coarse surface at Sam Boyd Stadium. Photo / Getty

Both New Zealand sevens teams have real concerns about returning to Las Vegas in 2018 after the artificial turf left them with burns, abrasions and infections last weekend.

The All Black Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens had several walking wounded and resorted to various forms of strapping, plaster, tape and vaseline to try and mitigate the coarse surface at Sam Boyd Stadium. It proved to be a challenging tournament all round, as the field is said to be just 62m wide, some eight metres narrower than the maximum or normal dimensions, while the winds reached gale force on days two and three.

All Black Sevens manager Ross Everiss says there were concerns for the newly laid turf after the 2016 Las Vegas event, but little, if any, improvements appeared to have been made.

"We went in with a bit of trepidation. Guys were wearing plasters on their legs and arms to try and prevent direct contact and Vaseline on the elbows and knees, but there were more bruises and abrasions from the friction of sliding on the turf," he says.

Three of the team were on antibiotics for infections leading into the Vancouver tournament, which affected their ability to train with as much contact early in the week. The Vancouver event will also be played on artificial turf, though a different variety, so Everiss was not expecting problems to the same degree.

While not professing to be an expert on turf management, Everiss felt that the Las Vegas surface had not been brushed properly, with the artificial grass quite flat. He said they would need strong reassurances if the team was to return there in 2018.

Coach of the Black Ferns Sevens, who won their tournament in fine style, Allan Bunting was even more direct in his criticism of the turf, saying they should be on grass.

"It's plain and simple. Artificial turf is made so groundsmen have an easy job. It's not for rugby and sevens is never going to be good on it. The (girls) all lost skin, so they had to bandage up," Bunting says.

Michaela Blyde, who scored seven tries, had heavy strapping on her right leg, and that was not due to a dodgy knee. Many players from other teams wore far more strapping and tape than usual.

World Rugby was not willing to pull the pin on Las Vegas at this stage. It is believed that a deal to hold the USA Sevens in the city expires after the 2018 event. A World Rugby spokesman issued this statement:

"Every effort had been made to mitigate the risk of such abrasions taking place, but very dry and unusually windy conditions over the weekend meant that, despite regular watering, the surface dried out more than we would have liked. This is not ideal and we have set in place an action plan to ensure it cannot happen again. Once we receive full reports from everyone involved, including teams, the host organisers and the venue itself, our artificial turf expert will be sent to the stadium to work out exactly what remedial work needs to be carried out for future tournaments."

- NZ Herald

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