Newcastle Falcons’ best acquisition this summer will prove to be their plastic pitch, believes centre Adam Powell.
The former Saracen is well-acquainted with synthetic surfaces having been with the London club when they became the first Premiership side to abandon grass two years ago, and has nothing but positives to say about the move after 18 months of trudging through the Kingston Park mud.
“Everyone is really relishing the chance to get out there on it, and when people come to see this pitch they will appreciate it really looks the business,” said Powell, whose side will play their first game on the new surface tomorrow when Rotherham are their visitors.
“The club have been really professional in how they have gone about the whole thing, and the boys just can’t wait to get some games on it.
“I think this will prove to be the signing of the season.”
With the evolution of artificial pitches having gathered pace in recent seasons, he added: “When we first did it at Saracens some of the guys, especially the older ones, had a bit more trepidation about the whole concept.
“People was unsure how it would work out but, now that everyone has played on these pitches, the emotion has changed from fear to excitement.
“It provides a much better footing for playing rugby, and for supporters they will see a faster and more open game.”
Giving a players’ eye view of last season’s surface, Powell said: “Our pitch here massively affected what we were able to do, and I don’t think people could fully appreciate that from the stands.
“You couldn’t tell how bad it was just by looking, and from November through until March it was absolutely horrendous.
“Parts of it were totally unplayable, but that is in the past now and we are not looking back as a club.”
Expecting a different kind of game with added spring in their step, he said: “The ball will be in play a lot more, and the stats back that up.
“It will be important that we get used to playing on it because, for the teams that aren’t, when they come here in the winter their eyes suddenly light up and they try to play too much.
“Saracens found that visiting teams would veer from their regular game-plans because they just wanted to throw the ball around, and it is important we maintain the balance between wanting to play and sticking to sound basics.”
Yet to learn whether the Falcons’ training schedule will be affected by their move away from turf, the former England Saxon believes a mixture of natural and synthetic will end up being the formula as the year goes on.
He said: “I am not sure yet how they will work the week, but I suspect we will train on grass for at least some of it.
“Our back pitch at Kingston Park is looking really good, and I imagine we will train on that during the weeks we are playing away from home on grass fields.
“Before home games we might use the main pitch a little more, although you don’t want to train too much on it because it can be a bit difficult on the legs.
“Even in training you can end up running further and faster on it so there is a balance to be struck between the two, but that is for people far more educated than me to decide.”
As well as tomorrow’s 3pm kick-off against Rotherham, the Falcons are also sending an Under-23s team down to face newly-promoted Championship side Doncaster Knights the same day.
Kick-off at Castle Park is at 2.30pm, with the Falcons set to include a small number of over-23s as they give game-time to the bulk of their squad.
Doncaster then visit Tynedale in their final pre-season friendly a week on Saturday, the Knights filling a spare weekend due to the cancellation of their game at Leicester.