Aviva Premiership
Weather hits Boxing Day fixtures
ESPNscrum Staff
December 23, 2010
Gloucester wing Lesley Vainikolo is hit hard by La Rochelle fly-half Romain Lacoste, Gloucester v La Rochelle, Amlin Challenge Cup, Kingsholm, Gloucester, December 19, 2010
Gloucester's match against La Rochelle at Kingsholm went ahead at the weekend but Sunday's match against Northampton has fallen victim to the freezing conditions © Getty Images

The Aviva Premiership's Boxing Day line-up has been hit by the freezing conditions with Northampton's trip to Gloucester and Exeter's match at Bath both falling foul of the weather.

Frozen pitches at Kingsholm and the Rec are to blame for the postponements, while Newcastle's showdown with Leeds has been delayed by 24 hours to Monday afternoon at Kingston Park.

Although the playing surface at Kingsholm has been covered since Gloucester's Amlin Challenge Cup clash against La Rochelle last weekend, current temperatures rendered it unplayable. And with conditions for the Gloucester area possibly plummeting to minus 10 on Christmas Day night, there will be no opportunity for the pitch to thaw.

"We felt that it was only fair to try and make an informed decision as soon as possible as to whether the game could proceed or not," said Gloucester managing director Ken Nottage. "The protective dome that allowed the La Rochelle game to proceed is unfortunately no longer at Kingsholm, and the freezing conditions have just been too much for our frost covers.

"We called in (referee) Chris White for his opinion, and, unfortunately it was bad news. It's the first time we have had to postpone a game, apart from for fog, in almost 15 years. It's desperately disappointing, as Sunday was going to be a sell-out and we were all looking forward to a terrific game of rugby.

"Our stadium staff have worked incredibly hard over the past few days in an attempt to stage two fixtures in the space of a week, but the weather conditions have proved to be too much."

Bath's match with Exeter was called off following a pitch inspection on Thursday morning. A statement on the Bath website read: "With low temperatures forecast for the next few days there will be no opportunity for the pitch to thaw and in the interests of both sets of supporters, players and the media, the decision has been taken to postpone the match and avoid unnecessary travel."

Newcastle's showdown with Leeds was put back after English ref Dave Pearson confirmed on Thursday that the pitch is unplayable. Contractors Sports and Stadia Services have been on site since Wednesday evening with hot-air blowers now working on the pitch. Their view is that a 24-hour delay should enable the match to take place.

Premiership Rugby has access to three sets of pitch kits which include hot-air blowers. For the next round of Premiership games the kits are also at the Monday games between Harlequins and London Irish at Twickenham and Leicester versus Sale Sharks at Welford Road. Wembley Stadium, venue for Gavin Henson's return to rugby on Sunday when Saracens meet Wasps, has undersoil heating.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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