Rugby Union has never been synonymous with impeccable playing surfaces and luscious green grass. But the venue for 2019’s Rugby World Cup final didn’t have even a blade of grass on it as it was stripped bare and re-laid just one month out from hosting its first match of the international tournament.
The pitch at Nissan Stadium, also known as International Stadium Yokohama for the duration of this year’s Rugby World Cup, was in a sorry state when hosting its final match in the top-tier football competition of Japan – the J1 League – before a six-week spell as a rugby venue.
An unusual long rainy season in the Kanto region of the country has caused little sunlight for the Yokohama grass, resulting in a harsh environment for the natural sprouts to grow.
The uncharacteristically overcast July along with poor ventilation of the 80,000-seater stadium caused concerns over whether the pitch would be ready for the start of the tournament or not. A decision was taken by the tournament organizers and Yokohama City to re-lay the turf just last week. However, they remain comfortable with the schedule for the new turf to bed in.
Yokohama is one of five host venues, along with Kamaishi, Kobe, and the venues for 2 quarter-finals, Tokyo and Oita. Hybrid turf combines natural grass with a small amount of artificial grass, usually around 3% – under major sports competitions regulations – for a stronger pitch than that including 100% natural turf.
In addition, weather has not been kind to Japan when it gears up to host the first Rugby World Cup of Asia. Meteorological records tumbled in Japan’s capital Tokyo this summer as it experienced up to 20 consecutive days of three hours or less of sunlight, the longest sequence since records began in 1961.
Moreover, torrential rain last week caused floods and landslides, which triggered evacuation orders of 850,000 people in the country’s southern island of Kyushu, home to the 3 tournament venues including Fukuoka, Kumamoto, and Oita.
Having originally been overlooked as one of the 12 stadiums, Yokohama was confirmed as a host venue in 2015.