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Sheffield tribologists get a grip on rugby balls

Hi-tech pimples that are designed to improve a player's grip on rugby balls may make them more slippery in wet weather, research conducted by two academics at The Leonardo Tribology Centre has suggested.

In their research published in Tribology International, Dr. Roger Lewis and Dr. Matt Carré report that in wet weather, a film of water can form in between the pimples found on modern rugby balls, making them harder to hold onto.

“Manufacturers started putting pimples on rugby balls to help provide extra grip,” said Dr Lewis.  “They have a range of different designs with the size of the pimples and their spacing.  In dry conditions, closely spaced pimples were better for grip, but in wet or muddy conditions, the density of the pimples allowed a film of moisture to form between them, so wider pimple spacing is better.

"Given that a slip at the wrong time could mean the difference between winning and losing a match, it’s important that this potential is explored.”

For more information about their research please see The University of Sheffield's news release, or contact The Leonardo Tribology Centre directly.