1. ITV Report

Semi-artificial pitch given go-ahead at Millennium Stadium

Millennium Stadium Photo: PA

The Welsh Rugby Union has given the go-ahead to plans to install a £3.3m semi-artificial pitch at the Millennium Stadium, five months on from outlining it was the preferred option they were considering.

The so-called 'desso' surface is a part artificial, part natural make-up that has become the norm at top level grounds throughout Britain including the Liberty Stadium, Cardiff City Stadium and Twickenham.

The surface will be made of artificial fibres weaved with natural grass Credit: PA

Made up of artificial fibres weaved in between a majority of natural grass strands it's hoped the new-look pitch will offer a far stronger surface than the one currently in place, which has been the focus of much criticism over recent seasons.

The pressures of international rugby have put strain on the turf which has visibly deteriorated over the course of 80 minutes, unlike most other international grounds.

The process of confirming the plans had focussed around securing the required funding needed to install the new turf but it is understood that has now been secured meaning the project has been given an official 'green-light' by Union chiefs. Installation will now begin in the summer following May's Heineken Cup final and the British Speedway Grand prix in June.

The WRU had also been considering the installation of a fully artificial surface in line with the one installed at neighbouring Cardiff Arms Park and English Premiership side Saracens' Alianz Park home but that idea was cast aside in December with WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis outlining the part artificial option as a better fit, given the stadium's aspirations to host major football tournaments in the future, including Wales' current bid to be a joint host city for the European Championship finals in 2020.

We will install a new Desso pitch this summer which together with our unrivalled fully-retractable roofing system will guarantee the best possible playing surface.

– WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis
The pitch has been secretly tested Credit: David Davies/PA Archive

The new surface has been secretly tested by the Union's ground staff over the past few months with sections installed in all four corners of the Millennium stadium alongside the current 100% natural turf during the recent Six Nation's championship. Its growth and strength has been closely inspected following games, particularly given the stadiums roof and iconic steep-sided seating which limit the light allowed to reach the pitch.

"Desso is a tried and tested pitch system which we expect would answer all our requirements for international rugby including the 2015 Rugby World Cup which brings eight games to the Millennium Stadium' said Lewis.

"The new system would also include the purchase of a Terraplas cover to ensure that non-sporting events can continue to feature in our calendar of major events.

"The Desso would take us to another level as a world-class rugby stadium and multi-event arena."