Giant pitch portrait of Premiership Rugby stars unveiled at Twickenham to mark long-awaited restart of the season


The pitch at Twickenham Stadium has been transformed into a stunning portrait featuring three of Premiership Rugby’s star players today. The giant rugby art, the largest outdoor painting ever created in the UK, was unveiled to celebrate the restart of Gallagher Premiership Rugby on Friday 14th August when Harlequins take on Sale Sharks at 7:45pm, just 200 metres away.

The artwork features Harlequins player, Joe Marler; Saracens’ Maro Itoje, as well as Sale Sharks’ Rugby World Cup winner Faf de Klerk

It took team of eight artists more than 24 hours to complete the pitch portrait and more than 100 hours of planning before any paint touched the grass. A bespoke computer program was written to generate the precise measurements that were needed to create the artwork to the exact scale of the stadium.

The image, which occupies most of the 7,000 square metre pitch, was created using a grid comprised of 13,420 elements. Each painted line in the portrait is just 6 inches wide.  Nearly 1280 litres of biodegradable pitch marker paint were used for the elaborate creation.

An estimated 150,000 passengers will enjoy the spectacle from the sky this week on flights in and out of London’s Heathrow airport.

Faf de Klerk was one of the featured Premiership Rugby stars in the portrait. The Sale Sharks star said, “I didn’t realise it was going to be on the field, I thought it was going to be a photo up somewhere or on the big screen. It’s looking really cool. There are a lot of great players in the Premiership, and it is amazing. I feel really privileged and quite humble.”

Speaking about the impact of lockdown on the sport Saracens star Maro Itoje said “The last few months have been really tough on fans and players but we’re back and we’re ready for the start of the season on Friday 14th August. The past five months has shown us how important the sport is and what it brings to people lives”.

British artist John Lundberg, who oversaw the portrait said; “I refer to what I make as conceptual art. When you view the art work up close you can’t really tell what it is but then when you see it from a vantage point it comes together and creates a complete image. It’s an incredible honour to create this piece to celebrate the return of rugby. It’s been such a tough time for sport and many industries, and it’s nice to be a part of bringing this sport back to the people who love it”.

Drone technology was used to capture the final image of the turf rugby stars, two of whom feature in the opening game of the restarted season on Friday night on BT Sport. Joe Marler and the rest of the Harlequins team will be taking on Faf de Klerk’s Sale Sharks.

Premiership Rugby has had to overcome the huge challenge of restarting a physical contact sport, and has worked closely with DCMS and medical teams to ensure a safe return to training. A full set of Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures will be played this weekend and 51 more fixtures will be played in the next 10 weeks to complete the season, before the final takes place on 24 October.

Darren Childs, CEO of Premiership Rugby, said: “We are so excited to restart the Gallagher Premiership Rugby season, and it’s been a herculean effort to get here. The pitch portrait is such a spectacular way to celebrate the restart of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby season and let the fans know that rugby is back on our screens again. We won’t take our eyes off the ball when it comes to being safe and secure in the fight against Covid-19, and all precautions are being taken to allow our players to be back doing what they love most – playing rugby.”

The first game of the restarted Gallagher Premiership Rugby 2019-20 season, between Harlequins and Sale Sharks is live on BT Sport at 7.45pm on Friday14th August