The Wallabies are facing another major problem heading into their must-win Rugby World Cup encounter with Wales – sweaty balls. Let us explain.
France's late summer heatwave combined with humidity and dew has made handling more difficult than expected in the early rounds for teams kicking off in the 9pm timeslot. Handling errors are hovering around the 19-23 mark per game for some of the fixtures affected by the warmer conditions.
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It's led to several players describing the official Gilbert match ball as a "bar of soap". Others have commented on how well the ball performs through the air in the humidity but is hard to grip on contact.
"You’ve got to understand how difficult it is out there," England fly-half George Ford said after his side's win over Japan in Nice. "It may not look it from the stands or on TV, but it’s actually more difficult than if it was throwing it down (pouring rain) because of the grease and the sweat on the ball."
Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked England to World Cup victory over the Wallabies in 2003 and played for French outfit Toulon, said: "I've been in those conditions in France. I know what it’s like kicking off at 9 o’clock at night compared to the afternoon."
Wallabies face must-win game against Wales
The Wallabies' two matches to date – a win over Georgia followed by a loss to Fiji - have been played in daylight hours, but Sunday's game in Lyon starts at 9pm (5am Monday AEST). With bonus points absolutely critical in the fight to finish top two in Pool C and avoid an early exit from the tournament, both Wales and Australia will look to move the ball at every opportunity.
The Wallabies have reached the knockout stage at every World Cup but face an embarrassing exit in France. Failure to at least make the quarter-finals would cap a disastrous return for coach Eddie Jones, who boldly predicted Australia was capable of winning the World Cup before the team's departure.
A day after the loss to Fiji, Jones wasn't so belligerent and cocky. He said: "We're going to work really hard to get the players back on track because when you have a loss like this, it knocks you around a bit, it knocks you around emotionally, it knocks around the team ethic wise.
"You start seeing shadows in every corner of the room, there's noise from outside which you've got to handle. The only thing we're worried about is Wales this week.
"We'd be happy to play them tomorrow if they were willing to play. We can't wait for the challenge. There's no problem with motivation. This team cares a lot about their performance."
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