Richard Hayden at Croke Park

The Kilkenny man, Richard Hayden,  in charge of maintaining the state of the pitches at this year’s World Cup has defended the heavily criticized surface at Port Elizabeth, where England scraped into the knockout stages last Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Algeria.

"There have been problems with the pitches in Port Elizabeth and Durban caused by the unseasonal weather. But both pitches are still playable and there were no complaints from England or Algeria, nor from Fifa, who are very happy with the playing conditions so far," said the Irish pitch-man.

The 30 year-old has, however, asked teams not to train on the surface before matches, so as to give the pitch a chance to recover between games: "Most teams have cooperated. If training is added to the games on the 10 pitches then you have them used 30 times in a four-week period," he said.

The Graiguenamanagh native admitted to having received some criticism in the media in the lead-up to the match, particularly in the English media, who were critical of his decision to ban the English team from training on the pitch before their big encounter with Germany, but defended his handling of the situation:

"You have to remember that 100 days ago there was no grass on any of the pitches and South Africa is in the middle of poor weather with temperatures dropping to -6°C at night", he said, adding that “when I took on this challenge I said there would be problems. But so far eight out of the 10 pitches have performed very well and Fifa is very happy with the playing conditions."