'Swimming in sweat' - Ireland ready for errors under closed roof in Kobe

The Kobe Misaki Stadium’s roof will be closed again tomorrow night.

BUNDEE AKI GOT an advance taster of what’s to come for Ireland against Russia tomorrow under the closed roof at Kobe Misaki Stadium.

The powerful centre was in the stadium on Monday night as Samoa and Scotland played, watching some old friends but also getting a sense of how tough it’s going to be for Ireland against the Russians.

a-view-of-the-kobe-misaki-stadium-during-the-captains-run The roof in Kobe closes as Ireland have their captain's run today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The Scots and Samoans – like England and Tonga before them – made repeated handling errors in the sauna-like conditions, while they also struggled to keep their footing at times.

“I was here just to have a look and it’s sweaty conditions, slippery ball,” said Aki today in Kobe. “As a collective, we know what the challenge in front of us is.”

The Kobe Misaki Stadium is the venue for four pool games in this World Cup and with World Rugby policy dictating that all roofs must be closed, there has been no option for teams to ask to open it up.

The result is a truly sweltering, greenhouse-like atmosphere inside the stadium, with supporters sweating heavily in the stands and the players struggling on the pitch.

“I had a couple of brothers who went to the England-Tonga game and they said that they were saturated just sitting watching it,” said Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt.

While Ireland did a warm-weather training camp in Portugal before jetting out to Japan, the humidity there was nothing like what Kobe will throw at them.

Back home in Ireland, Schmidt’s players wore bin bigs under their training jerseys in a bid to get a sense of how sweaty they will get.

“‘We trained with the bin bags under our jerseys just to get that uncomfortable feeling,” said prop John Ryan.

“To put it one way, it’s about being comfortable with being uncomfortable, that kind of way. I imagine we won’t need the bin bags on Thursday!”

andrew-porter Andrew Porter cools down during Ireland's captain's run. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Defence coach Andy Farrell underlined that Ireland’s mentality is the key thing ahead of the game. With mistakes bound to happen, he wants to see the Irish players reacting the right way.

“Because of the humidity in the stadium the ground sweats as well,” said Farrell. “So, the conditions are not what we’re used to but we’ve played in the rain quite a bit as well.

“It’s something we have to cope with, something we have to adapt to. We know the stats from the last two games that have been here, 30 handling errors in one and 35 in the other. It’s being able to adapt to that.

“How do we adapt? We make sure there’s a no-excuse mentality. There are going to be errors, we need to make sure that our defence shapes up pretty quickly to anything that is turned over.”

Technically and tactically, Ireland will have to consider their approach too.

“It seems that the conditions aren’t too bad at the start but as the game goes on it will be difficult,” said flanker Rhys Ruddock.

“There are lots of different ways you can adapt in terms of how long you hold onto the ball and whether it’s better to turn it around and play a territory game.

“It’s about making sure we look after the ball with shorter passes and not leaving the ball in the air too long so that they can force errors on you. But we’ve got to go out with a mindset to play, see how it is and adapt on the run. We’ll cross that barrier when we get there if conditions deteriorate during the game.”

a-view-as-the-ireland-players-warm-up The roof closes as Ireland warm-up today. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Schmidt’s use of his replacements will be important too, given that fatigue levels are likely to rise earlier in the muggy heat.

“We’re going to have to make sure we manage our bench really well so that we can share the load effectively because I do think it’s going to be tiring but we can’t be too distracted by that,” said Schmidt.

“We have to just have our plan in place. There was a 20-minute water break just because dehydration levels become excessive and the humidity is that high and people are virtually swimming in sweat.

“So the good thing is if you play a quarter, then you can actually grab a minute just to rehydrate, galvanise yourselves and go for another 20.

“Then we get into an air-conditioned changing room, try to get temperatures down and probably dry jerseys on, lots of towels, and put a dry team back out for at least 30 or 40 seconds before they sweat up again, and do their best to stay in the game.”

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