World Cup's best 'soapies'
SPOTLIGHT: Heard the one about the Irishman, Welshman and a Scotsman? It is a true story …
Coaches have been getting inventive and resourceful in their preparation for the opening round of the World Cup.
First Wales coach Warren Gatland used baby oil to get his players accustomed to slippery balls and now Scotland revealed they have prepared for their wet and wild opener with Ireland by practising with balls soaked in shampoo.
Gatland believes that humidity is going to be a massive factor during the tournament in Japan.
England coach Eddie Jones feels his side is fully equipped to cope with such a scenario, but Wales and Scotland are leaving no stone unturned.
Asked about specific humidity preparations, Gatland said: “We’ve been using wet balls and been using baby oil on them as well.
“We’ve taped them up as well, and we’ve already been through that process in the [training] camps we had before we’ve been away.
“We have been to two camps where one was at altitude and it was very hot in Switzerland, and then it was the late 30s in Turkey.
“We’ve done as much as we possibly can in terms of dealing with the heat.
“I think the humidity is going to be a factor. You can see how warm it is, but with the later kick-offs, those temperatures are going to drop to about 20 degrees.
“It’s going to be a lot cooler, but the challenge then is going to be the humidity and dealing with a slippery ball. It’s how we cope with that.
“The players who have been to New Zealand will have experienced that. I come from Hamilton, where it’s incredibly humid there.
“We know what it’s like and we have players who have experienced a lot of night rugby, so we feel we’ve prepared well. We are looking forward to it.”
Scotland’s approach is equally ingenious.
Gregor Townsend’s team are forecast to kick-off their campaign in Yokohama amid a torrential thunderstorm this weekend.
But the Dark Blues coach has been expecting things to get slippery regardless, while his team are sweating it out in Japan.
The Scots have been based in Nagasaki as they complete their final preparations for the tournament, where temperatures of up to 33 degrees and humidity levels of almost 75 percent have been recorded.
Assistant coach Mike Blair revealed the lengths they have gone to ensure there are no spills when they square off against Joe Schmidt’s No.1 ranked side in the world.
He said: “We had the shampoo and conditioner out over the ball when we were back in Edinburgh. Since coming here to Nagasaki it’s mainly just been water because the sweat is more of an issue.
“The wet is obviously not ideal, but the sweat is difficult to deal with.
“The conditions here in Nagasaki have been tough with the heat. It is likely to be wet and a bit cooler in Tokyo, but I never trust the weather forecast.
“Yesterday [Sunday] it [the forecast] said there was a 100 percent chance of rain [on Sunday] and today [Monday] it said a 50 to 60 percent chance, which means it wasn’t a 100 percent chance the day before!
“So there will be a drop in temperature but difficult conditions to play in. It is good they have been training in the heat here, so they will be able to adapt to that as well.”
A downpour will favour Ireland with their structured approach certainly more than Townsend’s free-flowing Scots.
But Blair insists the Dark Blues have a gameplan that will allow them to make a splash of their own.
“In every game we go in with different strategies depending on who we are playing and what the conditions are,” he explained. “We have got a lot of personnel in our team who are very good in (wet) conditions like that as well.
“We are known as a team who want to play a lot of rugby and move the ball around quickly, and we feel very comfortable doing that. But we also feel we have got guys in the squad who are capable of playing in different conditions as required.”