Rob Kearney: Jury out on astro pitches

Rob Kearney is in no doubt that the new breed of artificial turf makes for a better spectacle, but he remains to be convinced it is not coming at the cost of an increased injury toll.
Rob Kearney: Jury out on astro pitches

The full-back succumbed to what he described as a freak knee injury away to Glasgow last month when the Warriors christened their new Scotstoun surface with a thrilling comeback win.

“That astro pitch, I’m not sure,” he said this week. “It might take a few more victims in its time, it took another four at the weekend. It was just impact. There was no-one around me, my knee hit the ground.”

Kearney has been recuperating since and will also sit out today’s visit to Cardiff’s Arms Park which served as the trailblazer for artificial grass in the Guinness PRO12 and where the Blues have established a formidable home record.

“I don’t know enough about the science in it,” said Kearney when asked if perhaps the 4G-style surface was a potential contributor to more injuries.

“There is going to be more and more of the (surfaces), definitely. If it’s the right sort of pitch, it’s the way forward.

“It makes the spectacle better. Your skills are better, instead of plodding around on a mucky field when you can’t move your feet. But the balance to it is making sure they’re playable. Underneath it’s just concrete, and then they put the astroturf on it.”

Leinster have lost to Cardiff just the once in the last 11 meetings between the two stretching back to 2007, but the Blues are second in the PRO12 and enjoying their best ever start to the league with four wins from four.

A side sprinkled with talent, both foreign and domestic, shows five changes to the XV which narrowly accounted for Zebre in Italy last week. Among the new draft is Welsh international Gareth Anscombe who is back in to direct matters at out-half.

And a strong front row containing Gethin Jenkins and Tonga’s Taufa’ao Filise, as well as a back row boasting Sam Warburton and Nick Williams, will fancy its chances of providing plenty of front-foot ball for Anscombe to work off.

Opposing them will be a Leinster eight showing six changes from the side that impressed last Friday evening against the Ospreys at the RDS. Most notable among the inclusions is former Munster lock Ian Nagle who will play a first PRO12 game in three years.

Leo Cullen has drafted in an entirely new front row, switched two-thirds of his back row and followed all that up with the entry of Fergus McFadden, Rory O’Loughlin, and Jamison Gibson-Park into the back line.

This one should be good.

CARDIFF BLUES:

M Morgan; B Scully, C Allen, R Lee-Lo, T James; G Anscombe, L Williams; G Jenkins, K Dacey, T Filise; G Earle, J Turnbull; S Warburton, E Jenkins, N Williams.

LEINSTER:

Z Kirchner; F McFadden, R O’Loughlin, N Reid, D Kearney; J Sexton, J Gibson-Park; J McGrath, J Tracy, M Ross; M Kearney, I Nagle; D Leavy, J van der Flier, R Ruddock.

Referee:

D Philips (IRFU).

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