Wallabies and Boks prepare for Wellington weather
Updated: October 05, 2011, 01:22
Send to a friend
WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) The wet and windy Wellington weather could have just as big an impact on Sunday's Rugby World Cup quarterfinal as the skills of Australia's backs or the power of South Africa's forwards.
With the heavy, gray skies above New Zealand's capital dumping almost constant rain on Wellington Regional Stadium so far this week, both sides are prepared to adapt their game to the conditions.
"Tactically you tinker a few things,'' Australia flyhalf Quade Cooper said. "It comes down to the nines, 10s and 15s. There might be a bit more kicking or, if you're running dead on into a head wind like today, you might have to hold onto the ball because there's no point kicking and it going back over your head.
"Every game day for us, it tends to rain. We've just got to prepare for the worst and, if we are lucky enough to have a nice day out there, we can make the most of it.''
Forecasters predict rain to cease on Saturday but both teams trained on a wet Wednesday morning, aiming to get a feel for the conditions should things fail to improve for the weekend.
"There were a few kicks that were going backward, but the boys were enjoying it,'' Cooper said. "We very rarely get conditions like that so the boys were making the most of it and trying to get involved as much as possible.
"You play all around the world in all different kinds of whether and, preparing for a game like this, it makes the game so much more interesting for us as a whole.''
Interesting, is one way of putting it. Challenging and difficult might be closer to the mark for some of the players.
"It was pretty full on,'' Wallabies winger James O'Connor said. "There were some gale force winds going on. You never know what's going to happen on Sunday, so if we prepare for all occasions it's going to put us in a good state.''
The Australia forwards ran through their setpiece routines, tweaking them to cope with the conditions.
"I'm just glad the secondrowers took into consideration the conditions and I threw them up in the front part of the lineout,'' hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau said. "That said, we threw up a few back ones as well, which quite surprisingly hit the mark. It's probably not the best conditions to throw lineouts in, but you've just got to adjust to it.''
Some of those adjustments are unlikely to be tolerated by referee Bryce Lawrence on Sunday.
"There were times when we just mucked about and thought 'why not just throw it into the wind?''' Polota-Nau said. "And it hit the mark. I'm not too sure if the referees will determine that straight or not.''
With its big rumbling pack and focus on pushing the ball forward through contact phases, South Africa is arguably better suited to a game played in the wet.
"I think in wet weather like this, and obviously there is a fair bit of wind around in Wellington, territory will be very important,'' Springbok flanker Schalk Burger said. "So whichever way you find fit to get territory advantage you will probably use.
"But at the moment the weather is looking fine so hopefully it stays that way and both sides can play some good rugby, enterprising rugby and it can be a great spectacle.''
Wales and Ireland play at the same stadium 24 hours earlier, so Sunday's match could also be affected by a churned surface if that first quarterfinal is played in the wet.
Wales kicking coach Neil Jenkins scored almost all his 1,090 test points for Wales and the Lions with his boot, but may be stuck for exactly what advice to give his team for Saturday.
"I've been lucky enough to travel,'' Jenkins said. "I've been around the world and to most stadiums in the world and (people) say it's one of the toughest stadiums in the world to kick in. In most stadiums, the wind pretty much goes one way but in the Cake Tin it's swirling around so it's very difficult to understand which way it's going and very difficult to kick in.
"It's probably one of the toughest stadiums in the world for goalkicking.''