KASHIWA, Japan, Sep 10 – New Zealand scrum-half Brad Weber believes the All Blacks’ high-tempo game will perfectly suit the hot and humid Japanese conditions as they seek to run opponents ragged in pursuit of a third straight World Cup.
Weber told reporters on Tuesday that the focus of the team’s first training session in Japan was on getting used to the “pretty hot” conditions in Tokyo with temperatures hitting 35 Celsius.
But Weber insisted the All Blacks would relish the warmth, and the contrast with a New Zealand winter.
“New Zealanders in general, we like to play a fast game, up tempo. I see these conditions suiting us perfectly,” said the 28-year-old, who won his ticket to Japan off the back of a stand-out Super Rugby season for the Waikato Chiefs.
“We’re all pretty keen to get amongst these conditions, because it’s relatively cold and wet back home and we’ll get some conditions we enjoy playing in.”
Weber quipped that the weather was “just like summer in New Zealand,” before admitting: “OK, maybe the humidity’s a bit different.”
Lock Sam Whitelock said that the change in temperature was fierce but teams that adapted their style to the conditions would prosper over the seven-week tournament.
“Because it’s going to be warm, everyone’s going to want to play expansive rugby but it’s about making sure you can control the tempo,” said Whitelock, also part of the past two World Cup-winning teams.
– ‘Massive match’ –
“You’ve got to have the ability to play a couple of different styles,” he said.
The giant lock revealed that some players had taken to wrapping themselves in cold towels at training to get their body temperature down but stressed that two weeks was enough to acclimatise.
New Zealand open their title defence against South Africa on September 21 in what Whitelock said was “a massive match that will set the tone for our whole campaign.”
The Springboks have already been in Japan for more than a week and ran out 41-7 winners against the Japanese Brave Blossoms in their final warm-up game.
“They are a very good side so I’m sure they will have been holding something back and I’m sure they’ll keep something up their sleeve for us,” said Whitelock.
The All Blacks training camp is in Kashiwa, east of Tokyo, and the city has embraced its famous guests with posters of the team all over town and autograph and selfie-hunters in replica black jerseys camped outside their hotel.
“We’ve had an awesome reception… it’s pretty cool to see how hyped-up the city is to have us here,” said Whitelock.
The team was welcomed to the city on Monday by dozens of children performing the All Blacks’ traditional Haka battle cry, albeit a less scary version than that on the field.