Australia’s Women’s Rugby team will play their first ever standalone Test on a No.2 Sportsground playing surface that meets international standards thanks to a decision to quarantine the pitch until the historic 13 July fixture.
The boutique day-time international against Japan, the first in which the Wallaroos will play another country outside the customary curtain-raiser format, could be followed by annual Tests at No.2, which will undergo improvements between now and game day.
City of Newcastle will upgrade the glassed area at the northern end of the grandstand - to accommodate merchandise sales and host volunteers - and construct two fire stairwells at the rear of the concrete bleachers to sidestep the need for event fire-wardens.
The Wallaroos will play a Test against Japan in July at No.2 Sportsground. Photo credit: Stu Walmsley
City of Newcastle Services Director Alison Murphy said the decision had been made in consultation with ground users to preserve No.2 after last weekend’s rain-affected matches and further downpours undid recent rye-grass sowing.
“Hosting the women’s rugby Test is an historic opportunity for the City and we are determined to do everything we can to make the Wallaroos an annual fixture, as women’s sport goes from strength to strength,” Ms Murphy said.
“Remediation works and the closure of the ground will provide staff with the opportunity to rehabilitate the surface to an appropriate standard for the Test.
“In the meantime, we will work with Wanderers Rugby Union Club and Newcastle Hunter Rugby Union to find alternative venues for training and competition games scheduled for No.2 on 22 and 29 June.”
Rugby Australia Head of Operations and Major Events Tony Harris backed the move to mothball the ground.
“We have every confidence in the City of Newcastle to have No.2 Sportsground ready for the Buildcorp Wallaroos first Test of 2019 against Japan, which will be broadcast around the world,” he said.
“We have been very impressed with the efforts of the City around this fixture and I know the team is looking forward to continuing their preparation for the International season when they convene in Newcastle on July 6.”
The Japanese will be out to avenge their 29-15 loss to Australia at the 2017 World Cup in the Newcastle fixture, as well as a second match at North Sydney Oval on Friday July 19 July.
Two curtain raisers will be played before the 13 July Test:
Hunter Women XV v Southern Inland Women XV
Australian Defence Force Women v NZ Defence Force 40 minute halves, 10 minute half time
Buildcorp Wallaroos v Japan