All Blacks wing George Bridge is doing the near impossible during this World Cup in Japan – he is still putting on weight despite training and playing in the extreme heat and humidity.
The 24-year-old, who has become the All Blacks incumbent left wing after a standout test against the Wallabies at Eden Park in August – his first test start – has put on two kilogrammes and now tips the scales at 95-96kg.
That is a testament to trainer Nick Gill's high performance programme and Bridge's work ethic and attention to detail because the All Blacks are consistently losing more than two kilogrammes of fluid a training session here despite constant drinks breaks. It can be difficult for young players to put on weight even in more benign weather conditions.
Bridge's extra kilos come at no expense in terms of his speed and agility. Instead they will translate to extra power which will only help him become an even bigger attacking threat during the knockout phase when providing momentum and converting chances will come at a premium.
"I'm the heaviest I've ever been at the moment but I still feel I'm carrying it pretty well," Bridge said. "I'm ready to go."
Bridge, who has shone for the Crusaders over the past three years, confirmed with a smile that the extra weight was not concentrated around his stomach or the result of many bowls of ramen noodles, adding: "It's a high performance programme and I've just been getting into my work in the gym and on the training pitch.
"I'm not so skinny any more. Even against Namibia there were some big contacts against some big physical boys and going forward it's going to be the same; no matter who we play. You have to be able to cope with that.
"Early on in the training camp in Kashiwa it was very hot and I think the majority of the boys were losing a couple of kilos just from losing fluids. We were smashing drinks the whole training but it's just the way the humidity takes its toll."
Bridge, who scored two tries on debut as a replacement against Japan in Tokyo last November, scored four in the warm-up test against Tonga in Hamilton before his team's arrival here but none have been as important as the one he scored against the Springboks in the first pool game in Yokohama recently.
He had the presence of mind to point out the space for Beauden Barrett to run into and then brilliantly caught a dipping pass for the converted try which allowed his side to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
But, despite carrying the ball for a game-high 120m in the 71-9 victory over Namibia at Tokyo Stadium recently, Bridge was a little frustrated that he didn't see more of it.
"It was a funny old game actually," he said. "I tried to get myself involved. It's hard to explain how it felt. Obviously I want to get involved in games and have as much influence as possible. It's probably the first game in a while I haven't got as much ball as I wanted."
Bridge remains in a fight with Rieko Ioane for the No 11 jersey, but is the heavy favourite to retain it for the Italy match on Saturday and beyond.