What a great tournament this is!
The RBS Six Nations
I write today with just one round of games to go in this years RBS six nations rugby tournament. Having worked in football for most of my life I only ever managed to watch the odd game when ever my team was playing away.
This year has been completely different with a feeling of being involved since even before it began. As far back as January 27th my six nations began. England trained here at Twickenham under floodlights in their first get together of the New Year. After a three hour session we divotted on a cold wet night.
A week later and we were divotting after another session on a pitch just beginning to go white on the leaf, it was so cold. That was the forerunner of a really cold snap. The weather had turned really dry and cold. Here in London we had frost most nights and no rain for over a fortnight. I spoke with the main weather man John Kettley and he warned me of frost of down to -4 for two or three nights up to and including the weekend of the 15th February.
I decided it was too much of a risk and brought in Stadia Sports Limited to cover my pitch with frost covers for both Thursday and Friday nights. As John had predicted the temperatures did drop as low as minus two and the pitch never froze at all.
Perhaps some would say that given the bright warm day of the Saturday it was a luxury that I need not have used. I look at it differently. We had a sell out crowd of 75,000 people. Travelling from all over the country, even some from abroad. If there was the slightest chance of a frost depriving them of their game then I'll always put the paying public, the fans, first.
A cold easterly wind was blowing throughout the day. It struggled to get above plus 3 all day and in the wind it felt much, much colder than that. The England Ladies played a match in their championships against France Ladies kicking off at 1pm. So a testing day with two games as England men were kicking off at 4pm.
England won the game against France and we moved on. The pitch had done well but I felt it was a little dry. I could not water of course because of the frost. England trained on the pitch again on the following Tuesday in even colder conditions. There was no moisture to go white this time but the ground began to freeze as the lads trained. They had about another 3 hours and then came off.
To hard to divot! Luckily there were few divots, only signs of wear.
Although the team played away that weekend the kickers came into practice?
I refuse to criticise, as our kicker is the best in the world and if he needs to practice I will never stop him. To watch the level of concentration and dedication is just awe-inspiring.
A bit of warmer weather arrived and I was straight on with a liquid feed. I sprayed with the Rigby Taylor Mascot 5-4-20 + trace. I felt I needed to reward the grass for putting up with so much wear in such cold weather. Before the next game I gave the pitch a green up. A bit warmer in the air and the leaf responded really well. Once again I had the kickers in on the Friday this time with both Italy and England training on the Saturday.
The pitch played reasonably well for the Italy game. Still no sign of any growth despite the warmer days we have had of late. The cold nights with just a touch of frost are doing just enough to stop any early growth we could have wished for.
With all the training and matches I decided I needed to relieve a bit of compaction. So the day after the Italy game we verti-drained the pitch. I had decided that we had been so fortunate with the dry weather that our luck was bound to come to an end sometime. And usually that sometime is a match day!
I was pleased the way the pitch had been playing and gave it another liquid feed. Not to much as to get it thinking spring was here but just enough to keep the plant interested. I always believe that you should have nutrient available to the plant as you never know when it may need it.
Scotland loomed close. The kickers came in for their practice on the Thursday. It had been so dry of late I had irrigated before they trained. No damage and the next day both teams trained. The Scotland coach commented that it was the best he had ever seen "the Cabbage Patch!" I took that as a Scottish compliment!
After training we brushed in one direction with the "Dennis" cartridge mower. This just picked up any bits and bobs from the surface. We then cut and rolled both ways to iron in a strong bold pattern for the game the following day. The day dawned absolutely beautiful. I know it was lovely all over Britain on Saturday but some how it just added to the ambience of the whole day. What a day as well. I enjoyed another home victory against a stubborn Scotch side. I went on at the end of the game and was pleased with how it had played. A few divots and a fair amount of wear but with this weather we were confident we could build on this solid start.
I must pass on my heartfelt best wishes to all the other Head Groundsmen of the competing unions. Big Tony Horne has enough to worry about without a Worthington cup final in the middle of his fixtures! But as always he could be proud of what he achieved as the pitch has looked really well throughout.
Bill Elwood and Heather Mackinnon up there in Scotland deserve a lot of praise as well. If you think it has been cold and dry down here you just have to see where the blue areas have mostly been on all the weather maps. So far north they struggle to get any sort of recovery at this time of the year.
As for Majella Smyth in Dublin, well I think he had enough rain in the autumn to last him a life time. He also hosts the championship decider this Sunday. All eyes will be on his surface this weekend. So while wishing him well for the day I cannot wish for anything but an England win at Lansdowne Road.
We now play host to the Daily Mail schools Day.
Three games of Schoolboy rugby played on the home of England rugby. What a great day for the boys who are coming from all parts of the country. It is a day that must live in the memory of all who take part, whether playing, being the teacher or just attending to watch your school play on such an occasion. We hope that we give all concerned the rugby day of their lives. I also have one eye on the weather which looks set to break just prior to these games.
A week later we host another rugby bonanza with 4 games in one day for the Powergen day. Bit like the London buses here.....wait for one for ages then seven come along at once...