Widnes Vikings believe their new artificial pitch is already paying dividends as they prepare for the start of the new Super League season.
The 'i-pitch' has been given the seal of approval by the Rugby Football League and last Sunday, Vikings coach Denis Betts was able to pit his first-team against the club's Under 20s in a full contact training session on the recently laid surface.
The session took place at 10.30am on a frosty morning and may well have not happened had the Vikings' previous grass pitch still been in place.
Betts insisted: "Lots of things would have been called off but we've run a full training session.
"That's the beauty of what it gives us, unless the weather is really extreme.
"We managed to do an hour-and-a-half of full contact and afterwards it didn't look like we'd been on it."
While Vikings officials are hoping the new pitch will give them a slight advantage against visiting teams in the coming season, Betts believes the quality of the surface will mean the more expansive and pacy teams will relish playing on it.
"I'm not sure how much of an advantage it is.
"It's big, it's flat and it's a surface that encourages you to play rugby.
"It's a contact sport and we don't believe injuries are any more likely to happen on this surface than they would on grass.
"It's a true surface, there are no divots, so in many ways it's better."
Vikings' director of rugby, Paul Cullen, one of the driving forces behind the i-pitch also expressed his satisfaction and believes it puts the club at the cutting edge in terms of innovation.
He said: "It beats our expectations hands down. We've spent an awful lot of time and energy getting this project off the ground and we're more than delighted with the end product.
"This is a sporting revolution. It's bigger than rugby league.
"It's about how clubs can generate funds and play over a 12-month period.
"We can train and play at the same venue in perfect conditions - apart from the weather, of course - all year round."
The Vikings' first competitive game on the i-pitch is against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Friday, February 3.
In the meantime, Widnes are set to play St Helens in the first ever game at Saints' brand new stadium, Langtree Park this Friday (kick-off 8pm).
article seen on the :-Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News
See other related article about this new pitch on the following link :-Liverpool Echo