Redlands man Keith McAuliffe tests turf at Rugby World Cup grounds

AMAZING GRASS: Keith McAuliffe at the Redlands Research Facility with a piece of equipment used for impact attenuation testing. Photo: Stacey Whitlock

AMAZING GRASS: Keith McAuliffe at the Redlands Research Facility with a piece of equipment used for impact attenuation testing. Photo: Stacey Whitlock

MILLIONS of people around the world will eye off the work of Redlander Keith McAuliffe next month when 67 Japanese sports fields host World Cup Rugby matches.

Dr McAuliffe,managing directorof sports surface company Labosport Australasia, is preparing 55 training venues and 12 rugby match venues across Japan.

"It's a massive task when you're there because it involves a lot of travel - lots of flights, lots of car trips," he said.

"You have to have an understanding of the local climates and constraints.

"The general public will have no idea how difficult it is to get play surfaces for the Rugby World Cup because the climate in Japan is very challenging to get a really high-quality rugby surface.

"One of the big challenges is you've got to manage between two grasses - a winter grass and a summer grass - and you've got to change over without re-turfing in most cases."

To do this, grass seed is planted directly into existing turf.

Dr McAuliffe said a challenge in preparing for the world cup was the fields themselves, many of which had athletics tracks.

Turf laid over the tracks needed to be of the same quality as the rest of the field and had to be assessed for stability, durability, appearance and how it responded whenhit by players.

"We want strength underneath so we can handle scrums," Dr McAuliffe said. "Some of the venues are being used for over 20 days continuously so they have to be very strong. Having grass that looks good... is also important because it's televised."

Three years of work will come to a head during the whirlwind two-week competition at the end of September, when world rugby fans will see Dr McAuliffe's work.

"It's only daunting if there's a major failure," he said.

"We've done everything possible to mitigate the risk in case of tsunamis (or) typhoons."

While Dr McAuliffe has other jobs lined up (he will help to restore the Padang sports field at Singapore after the National Day Parade) he aims to take a break and focus on domestic projects after the world cup ends.

"I didn't anticipate the Rugby World Cup would be quite as time-consuming or as much involvement as it's turned out to be," he said.

"It's been an honour (but) incredibly long hours and hard work.

"I think we've made big changes...you can stand back and be proud of that."