Dwayne Peel whips the ball away on the new pitch at Wales's Centre of Excellence.
Robin McBryde's Wales tour squad took their first steps on the new state-of-the-art, all-weather, 3G rugby pitch built at the WRU Centre of Excellence, national team headquarters, the Vale Resort at Hensol, today.
The new surface has been laid to specifications exactly replicating the dimensions of the surface at Wales' home ground, the Millennium Stadium, at the express request of national team management and the tourists, who head to Canada and America at the end of the week, were the first to benefit from the new high tech installation despite heavy rain this morning.
"From the length of the dead ball area to all of the other dimensions of the pitch, right down to the eventual pitch markings this training ground will be an exact replica of that at the Millennium Stadium," said Wales' forwards coach, and the man who will lead his national team on tour to Canada and USA this summer, Robin McBryde.
"Detail like that will help the national team in the long term and once the all-weather surface has been fully laid and the other pitches are available to us we will be able to boast one of the finest rugby training facilities in Europe if not on a world-wide scale."
Three full size normal pitches and two half pitches will also be installed at the Vale Resort complex as part of the new development for exclusive use by the national team and the full range of WRU squads, but the all-weather surface - the largest of its kind in Europe - will prove particularly valuable to the national side.
"The 3G pitch is ready for us to train on, which is magnificent news," added McBryde.
"We don't always have the weather on our side here in Wales, but with a surface like this available to us any potential obstacle to the important and often intense preparation time we have with a national squad will be entirely removed."
The pitch has official FIFA approval, but is specifically designed to accommodate the needs of rugby union and meets all IRB standards.
It is 130metres by 80metres in dimension and is under laid with a bespoke rubber, shock absorbent, material - known as Brock - which minimises the impact on the body when a player falls with force.
Drainage is incredibly efficient and there is minimum chance of water-fall or ice preventing play, making the new pitch literally useable in all weathers, with the only maintenance necessary being the use of specially designed brushes to care for the imitation grass surface.
"The investment made in these facilities will pay dividends to Welsh rugby for years to come and both the Vale Resort and the Sports Council for Wales, without whom the development would not have been brought so swiftly into such magnificent reality, deserve many plaudits," said WRU chief executive Roger Lewis.
"These surfaces are the way forward for sport around the world, not just rugby and not just in Wales. You could use one of these 3G pitches 24hrs a day, seven days a week if you needed to, in whatever conditions you have local to you.
"This must be the vision for the future of sport in communities around the globe, other countries are already catching on and we are leading the way in Wales, but more still needs to be done.
"Warren Gatland and his men will soon boast the best rugby training facilities world sport has to offer at the Vale Resort and the future stars of the Wales team as well as all WRU squads will undoubtedly reap the benefits."
The WRU Centre of Excellence development is the result of a three way partnership, with investment from the WRU, Leekes, the owners of the Vale Resort, and the Sports Council for Wales, who have allocated a £1.5 million Lottery grant into the project.
"This is an exciting new development for the Vale Resort as we further extend our word-class sports facilities on this 650-acre site. We are pleased to have completed this outstanding 3G outdoor pitch in a very short space of time for the WRU in preparation for the tour to Canada," said Stephen Leeke, Managing Director of the Vale Resort.
"We have made significant progress on site in the past six months to create a sophisticated training base for the WRU which we believe competes with any other major training facilities in Europe.
"This is a world-class partnership and a culmination of the vision by the Leeke family to support excellence in Welsh sport from grass roots up.
"This new pitch is state-of-the-art and is one of the finest of its type in the world. It incorporates the latest 3G artificial pitch technology. This allows full impact for training as it reacts and behaves like a natural surface with the benefit of being able to be used in all weathers, all year round."
The development of the WRU Centre of Excellence also incorporates a revamp and modernisation of the Indoor Arena complex on the same site to accommodate national squad offices and the WRU rugby department.
The whole facility will be available for use by all Wales teams, Age Grade and Women's squads and is set to be fully completed this year.
Sports Minister Alun Ffred Jones said: "This is an exciting project for Welsh rugby and I'm pleased to see that the facilities are coming on stream. The facilities at the Vale Resort will really benefit Wales's international rugby teams and I'm pleased that the partners in the project, the WRU, the Sports Council for Wales and the Vale Resort, have been able to work together to bring this project forward."
Philip Carling, Chair of the Sports Council for Wales said: "Through National Lottery funding, the Sports Council for Wales has been able to transform the sporting landscape in Wales. As well as community projects across Wales, it has also been able to put into place a network of key national and regional facilities."
A full size, floodlit, 3G rubber crumb artificial pitch has been constructed to IRB standards which means outdoor full contact training can take place in all weathers.
At 10,400 sq metres the new artificial pitch is the largest of its type in the UK and is the most advanced surface of its kind in the world and has been supplied by world leading manufacturer of synthetic turf, TigerTurf.
The Vale's 3G pitch has the same dimensions as the Millennium Stadium.
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