Rugby Union: Paris pitch no better

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The fate of Saturday's France-England international still hung in the balance last night. Officials reported no improvement in the frozen and troublesome pitch at the new Stade de France just north of Paris.

The turf was reported to be frozen to a depth of 10 centimetres - more than was admitted the previous day - despite a pitch cover installed on Monday night. Warm air blowers are to be employed today, but stadium officials were also praying for a change in the weather.

It became clear yesterday that the stadium had deliberately not covered or warmed the pitch at the weekend, for fear that artificial protection or forced heating would worsen its fragile condition.

The daily sports newspaper L'Equipe said a more aggressive approach would have been adopted if the stadium were not due to be the showpiece of the football World Cup in June. L'Equipe said the stadium was left with the choice of risking a frozen pitch for the opening match of the Five Nations' Championship, or providing a "ploughed field" for the World Cup opener on 10 June.

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