Ireland and England have stepped up preparations for their next Rugby World Cup games in Japan.
Johnny Sexton expects Ireland to feel the heat when they face Russia in Kobe on Thursday, while George Ford accepts England could be walking a disciplinary tightrope against Argentina in Tokyo on Saturday.
After a rest day on Tuesday, the action resumes on Wednesday with champions New Zealand meeting Canada and France taking on the United States in England’s pool.
Sexton wary of slippery slope
Sexton will lead out Ireland for the first time against Russia on Thursday, with World Cup skipper Rory Best among those rested for the Pool A clash.
Coach Joe Schmidt has made 11 changes from the side upset by Japan last Saturday, with Ireland expected to claim a comfortable win against opponents ranked 20th in the world.
But fly-half Sexton, fit again after sitting out the Japan defeat with a thigh injury, is wary of the humid conditions under the Kobe Misaki Stadium’s closed roof.
“We watched the game (Scotland v Samoa) and it looked very slippy,” Sexton said.
“Obviously, when you hear it’s an indoor stadium you think air-con and probably a little bit cooler, but it’s quite the opposite we hear.
“It’s something we’re going to have to be mindful of. Even when you play outside the ball gets pretty slippy.
“Against Japan, in the first half (the ball) was bone dry but the longer the game went on the sweatier everyone got. The ball was like a bar of soap.”
Ford wants England to stay onside with officials
England fly-half George Ford says Eddie Jones’ side are determined to avoid paying the penalty when it comes to the contentious issue of offside.
While the officiating of dangerous tackles has dominated headlines in Japan, Argentina, Ireland and Australia have voiced dismay over instances in which they claim offside has not been policed correctly.
But Ford insists England’s approach is unambiguous, saying: “It’s pretty clear as a player. We want to make it clear that we are onside and that’s for the referees to interpret.
“Our aim is to be whiter than white in terms of that because the thing we’ve seen is that one penalty can change the momentum of the game massively.
“A lot of them are coming from offside and it’s something we want to be ultra disciplined in. It’s a rule, it’s crystal clear and you want it to be refereed well.”
Goggles-wearing Savea has Canada in his sights
New Zealand loose forward Ardie Savea will wear rugby goggles against Canada after trialling them at All Blacks training.
The move comes after Savea discovered that the vision had deteriorated in his left eye and he realised he had to protect his eyesight.
“A couple of years ago I realised I had bad vision in my left eye. Everything’s kind of blurry,” Savea said.
“I told All Blacks doctor Tony Page that it was getting worse and now we’re doing something about it.
“Doc notified me that World Rugby had some goggles that were approved and everyone has been really supportive.
“In terms of vision and seeing, it’s pretty sweet, and it’s now just a matter of getting used to them.”
World Rugby approved the use of the goggles at all level in May to allow those who are visually impaired to play the game.
Henry help for the Canucks
Sir Graham Henry guided New Zealand to World Cup glory in 2011, but the former Wales coach has been helping the All Blacks’ rivals Canada.
Henry has been working as a consultant for the Canucks and coach Kingsley Jones said: “Graham has been a longstanding friend.
“He was my coach in Wales a long time ago and we kept in touch. He’s often been a mentor for myself and he loves Canada.
“I met him in Vancouver in May and I asked him if he could support the group or the coaching going forward as well, not just for this period, and he was really excited.
“He came out to Fiji for a few days with us and challenged the coaches, making sure we’re challenging each other and giving us direction, as he always does, asking really good questions.
“He’s been a great support for us. He’s back in New Zealand right now. But he’s been sending his reports, his thoughts, to the coaches.”
France play the generation game
Louis Picamoles has been named France captain for the first time in what will be his 81st appearance for Les Bleus.
But the 33-year-old former Northampton Saints back rower – a veteran of three World Cups – does not want to be seen as a “big brother” to his younger team-mates.
“I just want to give everything I can to the team as we have a lot of young players,” Picamoles said ahead of France’s Pool C clash with the United States in Fukuoka.
“But I do not see myself like a big brother. There are players with not such a large amount of experience but they are great players and we are a strong group.
“It’s a mixture of veterans and young players. But I don’t really worry about the generation gap, we just want to play well.”
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