FUKUOKA, Japan (AFP) – Rugby World Cup officials have given assurances the Fukuoka pitch will hold firm for today’s Ireland-Samoa Test following Irish concerns that it was tearing up.
“It doesn’t look great to be honest with you, but it’s flat and quite firm,” wing Keith Earls said, as teammates lifted a layer of turf and placed a ball underneath during their captain’s run in Hakatanomori Stadium yesterday.
“It’s going to be the same for both teams, and we’ll just have to get on with the job.”
Ireland must beat Samoa with a bonus point to be certain of making the World Cup quarter-finals, otherwise their fate rests on the outcome of Sunday’s final Pool A match between Japan and Scotland.
Ireland’s concerns about the Fukuoka playing surface centre on scrum stability and player safety, after large parts of the surface were re-laid since it took a pounding in the past two weeks when Italy beat Canada 48-7 and France’s 33-9 win over USA.
Despite World Rugby assurances the surface was safe, Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek, a former All Blacks prop, was reluctant to express his opinion because he did not want to “cause any more controversy” about the surface.
“You guys are pretty smart individuals, and you would have seen the pitch yourselves,” he told reporters.
“They told us in an email, both teams know about it. We knew they had to re-lay the pitch. So we just went out there, had an inspection and we’ve been given all the assurances by World Rugby that it’s safe to play on and that’s all we can ask for.
“We just try to back the players, trust that the pitch will do its job.”
Feek, who played in the 1999 World Cup, said scrums were where the pitch will be tested.
“Where there’s a couple of big packs going at it you’re always going to be cautious and ask the questions.
“So we’ve just got to prepare our guys as best we can but make sure the scrums stay up, not just for safety but also for the match too.”