Stadium glare no concern for Wallabies, Fiji

Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The metaphorical spotlight of the World Cup will be shining on Australia and Fiji on Saturday but both sides said the glaring lights of the Sapporo Dome wouldn't affect them in their opening match.

Saturday afternoon’s clash will be the first rugby match to be held at the Sapporo Dome, which is usually used for baseball and soccer matches, and is a rare fully enclosed stadium.

The stadium is fully indoors and the brightness of the beaming lights running down the sideline and in the corners of the pitch were hard to miss at Friday's captain's runs sessions.

Fiji coach John McKee said he had noticed extra glare from the setup but played down any possibility that it would hinder his team.

“The lights are the same for both teams,’ he said.

“Yeah, sometimes when you’re standing out in the middle of the field you could get a bit of glare with the lights but our back field players were taking plenty of high balls and getting high balls kicked to them at our captains run, to get the feeling. 

“I didn’t see any balls going on the ground so I don’t expect we will have a problem with that.”

Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi said he hadn’t noticed any issues with glare during his side’s training session.

“It didn't seem like that when we were out there,” he said.

“The pitch is awesome, the stadium itself, hopefully I won’t be catching any high balls, that's KB's job and that at the back but I haven’t found any issues with that at all.”

The luxury of a dry, quick deck unaffected by weather in Sapporo will be ideal for both sides, who lean towards playing fast, open rugby.

If either side has an advantage in the environment though, it could be the Fijians.

Paris side Racing Metro, where Fiji flyhalf Ben Volavola and lock Leone Nakawara both play, has a similar setup in their home ground in the Top 14 with a U-shape indoor field.

With 13 of their squad players having a background in France, plenty of them are familiar with playing in that kind of environment, experience the Wallabies don’t have.

The Sapporo Dome will host two matches in the Rugby World Cup. Photo: Getty Images“Quite a number of our players play in France and they compare it to the Racing Metro stadium in Paris, where they play,” McKee said.

“The difference here is we are on grass as well, which we prefer.

 “It augurs for a great game of rugby, because no elements can interfere.”

Australia has played Wales almost annually in the past decade under a retractable roof at Millennium Stadium but Hooper noted a clear difference in the Japanese arena.

“Very impressed by the stadium, it's like nothing we’ve ever played at before,” he said.

“it's actually a different environment inside than it is from outside, which I think is quite unique.

“The field looks amazing, i think it's going to be a great spectacle for the fans. 

“We're very lucky to have a lot pf Aussie fans over here, seen them walking around Sapporo, I think it’s going to be a great day tomorrow, great way to kick off our tournament.”

Australia takes on Fiji on Saturday September 21 at the Sapporo Dome, kicking off at 1:45pm local, 2;45pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Network Ten and via RADIO.