After weeks of high humidity and temperatures, conditions at the Rugby World Cup have taken a dramatic switch for the beginning of the knockout stages.
Just three weeks ago, temperatures in the mid-30s and readings of 90 per cent humidity were part of the daily bustle of Tokyo but, like the 12 eliminated teams at this year’s World Cup, those have quickly become a distant memory.
Winter has arrived in Japan and with it brought temperatures of just 15-16 degrees or thereabouts and a forecast of plenty of rain.
Rain is expected in seven of the next nine days so tomorrow’s quarter-final clash between the All Blacks and Ireland in Japan’s captain could turn into a gritty affair in wet conditions.
The All Blacks are heading into tomorrow’s game with some topical selections after coach Steve Hansen named the 23 – potentially for the last time – yesterday.
Brodie Retallick will start in the game despite having just 30 minutes under his belt but Hansen and team management are confident he’ll be fine in the contest and issues with his shoulder are in the past.
Elsewhere, Jack Goodhue has been given the nod to join an in-form Anton Lienert-Brown in the midfield with Sonny Bill Williams covering them on the bench while veteran Ryan Crotty misses out.
Another experienced player joining Crotty is Ben Smith, who was overlooked for tomorrow’s Test with Jordie Barrett taking the No.23 jersey to cover the Beau’unga combo.
The countdown is on to what should be a real hard-fought World Cup knockout game but the All Blacks should be motivated by their two recent losses to Ireland in 2016 and last year.
For the Irish, though, there’s an even greater sense of gravity being put on the match, with some calling it the "biggest game in their rugby history".
Only time will tell whether the Irish can deliver on that pressure or if the All Blacks will keep walking towards their own and a chance at a historic third-straight title.