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Aussie coach plans for extremes in Commonwealth Games debut

April 5, 2018

FILE - In this Aug. 8, 2016 file photo, Australian players celebrate after winning the women's rugby sevens gold medal match against New Zealand at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Australia coach Tim Walsh has gone to extreme lengths to prepare his squad for the inaugural games medal of women's rugby, including hosing down footballs. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe,File)

GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — He who controls weather, will control the world. Or at least, he who attempts to control the weather — might just win Commonwealth Games gold.

Australia coach Tim Walsh has gone to extreme lengths to prepare his squad for the inaugural games medal of women’s rugby, including hosing down footballs.

Walsh, who coached the team to Olympic gold at Rio de Janeiro, has factored in nine days of wet weather in April and the Australian team is scheduled to play over three days starting Friday, April 13.

Using the law of probability, Walsh is expecting at least one day of rain.

But practicing in the rain has proved elusive for Walsh as eastern Australia baked in an exceptionally warm and dry summer.

“It’s just been ridiculous trying to fine tune our wet weather strategy. It only seemed to rain on a day off — the past three months has been so dry. Wet weather footy is just so different,” Walsh said. “Then when we went to Las Vegas recently, I was emptying water bottles on the ball — trying to make it slippery ... because when it’s wet it just pops out like a watermelon seed ... and you can warn the players but they have to experience it.

“That’s why yesterday’s wet weather on the Coast has been so great ... the timing couldn’t be better.”

Unlike the Rio Olympics, the women’s rugby team marched in the opening ceremony. On Thursday, they boarded a bus for the Sunshine Coast where they will stay in camp until next Wednesday.

Ironically, archrivals New Zealand are also in camp on the Sunshine Coast, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of the Commonwealth Games host city. The New Zealanders have been ordered to stay there until at least Sunday after one of their players contracted the mumps.

Ruby Tui, 26, is in isolation while further assessments have been made on other players and support staff. The team had initially been scheduled to move into the athletes village ahead of the opening ceremony.

“We want to win and prove ourselves against the best in the world ... with no excuses ... and you don’t wish illness upon anybody,” Walsh said of a potential medal match against the New Zealanders.

Walsh said the painful slump in 2017 after the Australian women won the first Olympic gold in the sport will help his squad retain focus in light of their stunning success at the Sydney Sevens in January — and keep the team focused for Commonwealth Games gold.

The Aussie women turned in the most dominant tournament victory ever recorded in a World Sevens Series tours by winning the title without conceding a point.

“There were patches that we weren’t at our best ... against New Zealand in our first half our attack wasn’t up to full strength ... and we are well aware of that. There will be no complacency.”

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