The first thing Sam Whitelock noticed when he arrived in Japan was the heat – a factor that could play a significant role at the Rugby World Cup.
The All Blacks trained for the first time this week and got a taste of the thick, humid 30 degree heat in Kashima ahead of their World Cup opener against the Springboks in Yokohama a week from Saturday.
Sweltering conditions are expected throughout most of the World Cup, which the All Blacks have been preparing for back home.
"It's something we've always known," Whitelock told reporters. "We're here a little bit earlier to hopefully acclimatise to it and it was good to get out there in the heat and run around."
The two-time World Cup winner also outlined the many ways players try to keep cool.
"It's trying to work out what is the best thing for you as a player. Some guys are just pretty happy with water and just drink away, other guys like a cold towel to put all over themselves to try and get that body temperature down."
While the conditions could put an added strain on the players, it could also lead to more quick free-flowing rugby, something that plays into the All Blacks' strength.
Halfback Brad Weber was excited by that prospect, saying the conditions should suit the All Blacks' style of play.
"It's going to be massive," Weber said about the All Blacks' mobility and speed. "New Zealanders in general we like to play a fast game, up-tempo so I see these conditions suiting us perfectly.
"If you look at the team that we've got, we've got some exciting talent and ability so we're all pretty keen to get amongst these conditions because it is relatively cold and wet back home and we get some conditions that we enjoy playing in."
Whitelock added that the expansive style of footy needs to be balanced with the ability to control the tempo in order to manage the heat.
"I think there's going to be pros and cons of who's selected, who's not but I think if you've got players who can play a number of different styles, always helps.
"It's going to be warm, everyone is probably going to want to play expansive rugby but making sure that you can control the tempo – you don't want to just go out there and just try and play fast the whole time when you're probably smarter to slow it down.
"Making sure you actually have that ability [to play fast] but you've also got to have that ability to close out if you've got two minutes before halftime or before the fulltime whistle. Yes it's something we're aware of but you've got to make sure you've got the ability to play a couple of different styles."
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