Richie Vernon Rugby World Cup Tour Diary Pt 4

Our week in Wellington started in a pretty relaxed manner.

After travelling Thursday morning after the Georgia game, we were given the travel day and the Friday after to relax and have a look around the Capital. This was thankfully received by the squad after the quick turnaround to the Georgia game which was undoubtedly a hugely physical encounter, especially for the forwards. There were a few activities organised for us if we wished to go. A few headed on a Wellington tour involving the chance to see a few locations used for The Lord of the Rings movies, a few signed up for a fishing trip which was unfortunately cancelled but most, in truth, chose to stay in the hotel and have a few games of cards to decide who would buy the coffees for that morning.

Saturday we were back to work in preparation for the Argentina game which after the way the results have gone so far, will prove to be vital for both teams’ bid to progress to the quarter finals. Days off on tour often come with a sting in the tail when you get back to training and this was the case over the weekend with conditioning games and some physical defensive work being the focus over the two sessions. Saturday was also a chance to get back into the gym to keep the strength going after the foundations laid in preseason. ‘Pottsy’ our conditioner, was right at home in the ‘bodyworks’ gym he chose, which catered mainly for power lifters and competitive strongmen. The music was angry, the gym was dirty and adorned with pictures of bodybuilders and the gym itself was full of lifters in shorts a bit too tight for them. However it did have everything we needed and was full of people serious about lifting weights so it was an ideal place to train for us.

The rest of the week followed a similar theme. We trained Monday, Wednesday, Thursday with the Tuesday and Friday off to ensure we were as fresh as possible for what will be our toughest challenge so far here against an Argentina team who know it’s their last chance. On Wednesday the team was announced to the squad and the mood was very tense. Lots of players really put their hand up for selection in the way they played against Georgia and were rewarded with a start. I don’t envy the coaches as there were many hard decisions to make as it seems you could make an argument for any of the 30 to be starting. A few in particular were very unfortunate not be selected but all have taken the news well as the atmosphere in the camp has been very positive. There has been a real collective focus in training to do all the prep we can for the game and the non-22 have helped a huge deal in simulating the way Argentina play. Of course I would rather be starting but Ally, and Kelly, have played superbly and I will be looking to make a real positive impact off the bench in what will most likely be a close game.

Today we had our team run at the Westpac. It is a great stadium and will be a perfect venue to play. Having played there for the Wellington 7s a couple of times, I was reminded of the important role the wind can play on the game here. The wind really gusts here and the ball can move very strangely in the air so it was good to get a chance to catch a few high balls as this is a tactic we know Argentina use well. The boys have been in a relaxed and determined mood. All of us realise quite how important a game this is and we’ve been reminded a few times that the Pumas knocked us out of the last World Cup and a lot were involved in that game 4 years ago.

 Sunday we will be looking to avenge that loss and with all the Scotland shirts and kilts that have flooded into the city in the last few days I’m sure we will have great support in the stadium to do that. Let’s hope they enjoy the game and have something to celebrate afterwards!

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Richie Vernon is a former Scotland International who received caps in the back row and the centre. He currently plays his club rugby for London Scottish, following spells at Glasgow and Sale Sharks.