Heat is on for Scotland in Singapore sauna

Scotland's Gordon Reid, left, and Zander Fagerson check in at Edinburgh Airport prior to flying out to Singapore. Picture: SNS/SRU
Scotland's Gordon Reid, left, and Zander Fagerson check in at Edinburgh Airport prior to flying out to Singapore. Picture: SNS/SRU
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Even the locals in Singapore were noticing the heat as the Scotland team flew into town for their game against Italy on Saturday. Officially, it was 34C, but in the glare of the tropical sun it felt close to 40C.

No wonder the first day’s activities were kept to a casual stroll and a recovery session in the hotel swimming pool to cool off.

The Scotland team arrived early and missed the worst of the midday sun and are undoubtedly hoping the indoor venue on Saturday combined with the evening kick-off will help them cope. Nobody would relish ­running in a repeat of last night’s ­Singapore sauna.

As always, the players’ sleep patterns were closely monitored on the flight over, so that Gregor Townsend and his 
fellow Scotland coaches can hope they will be well rested and primed for today’s training sessions.

Italy arrived first and Conor O’Shea has already pointed out that they have had three weeks of training in the ­Mediterranean sunshine so will be better acclimatised than the Scots, who have been training indoors or on a club pitch in Edinburgh or at the indoor facility at Oriam, next to the Heriot-Watt University ­campus.

“Working in the heat of Rome was a good approach to the coming weeks,” said O’Shea. “It’s very hot and we worked hard to lay the foundation. This week, we will focus more on specific preparations for the match with Scotland.

“It is two years and four months, or 24 games, to the next Rugby World Cup: this tour marks a new stage for us on our path to get past the group stage of the World Cup in Japan. I can’t wait to go.”

Italy then head straight for Fiji while Scotland travel on to Australia, where the home side have been further weakened by the loss of another two players in Samu Kerevi from the Queensland Reds, and Nick Phipps from the NSW Waratahs, both with ankle injuries.

Jake Gordon, the uncapped Waratahs scrum-half, and Rob Horne, another Waratah whose omission from the original squad raised a few eyebrows, come in to replace them.

For Townsend and his troops, this is where the phoney games stop and the real ones begin.

After watching Vern Cotter being cheered to the rafters on his final game with Scotland, Townsend has to hit the ground running.

The strange coincidence of the fixture list that matches his first game against Cotter’s last game – Italy in both cases – means there are direct comparisons to be made.

Townsend’s team have got to show he is able to continue the good work Cotter started if he is to make an early impact with the players.

The comparisons don’t just stop there. Next stop on the trip is Australia, home of the side that conquered the Scots by a single point twice in succession after losing the last time Scotland toured their country.

“The journey was good, we had a good idea what to do to control the time zone change,” was the reaction from Rob Harley, the flanker whose red colouring means he must he hoping for some kind of relief from the temperatures.

“Then there was a little bit of exercise as well to get the blood flowing.

“It is very, very hot and we need to understand how it is going to affect us.”

Experience from similar environments suggest that evening dew and sweaty hands are both likely to be an issue, the ball is likely to be greasy, making handling skills a priority.