Sweltering conditions will test both the fitness levels of players and the interest levels of fans at the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens.
Oppressive heat awaits at Suncorp Stadium on both days of the knockout’s inaugural edition, with a forecast temperature of 36 degrees celsius on Saturday rising to a sizzling 39 on Sunday.
Combined with the trademark local humidity, it shapes as a less than ideal platform for what is supposed to be a fast-paced, high-tempo rugby showcase.
It also could have a major impact on crowds – and, in turn, the tournament’s future.
Ticket sales have been sluggish and even organisers Duco Events – who are hoping to have 30,000 on hand for both days – admit walk-ups will be an extremely tough sell in the circumstances.
Duco Australia CEO Rachael Carroll wouldn’t be drawn on talk of a possible swap with the NRL’s Auckland Nines, the company’s other flagship summer event, if the tens is a flop.
But she was confident games won’t have to be postponed.
“Everything should go ahead as planned,” Carroll said.
Extra precautions are being taken at Suncorp to ensure supporters can cool down with ample access to shade and mist fans spread around the venue.
But whether the 14 teams, some of which are coming straight from freezing nothern hemisphere conditions, can come to terms quickly enough to hold up their end of the bargain remains to be seen.
“There was a few dropped balls at training this morning which wasn’t ideal,” said James O’Connor, who will play for French club Toulon.
“How can you deal with a heatwave? Maybe even the Aussie boys are going to be in the same circumstances.”
Meanwhile, it’s so hot Israel Dagg is almost thankful New Zealand Rugby blocked him and a host of other top-line All Blacks from playing because of a clause in their contract that demands a 12-week off-season rest period for players who toured Europe.
Dagg is an official event ambassador and travelled with the Crusaders to Brisbane but is not part of their squad.
“It’s going to be an awesome tournament but I can’t control that,” Dagg said.
“New Zealand Rugby are my employers, whatever happens happens.
“We’re here to support it. I’m still an ambassador, I’m still going to walk around with the fans and show face.”
There is still plenty of starpower involved, including the likes of Israel Folau, Berrick Barnes, Digby Ioane and a number of retired greats in Stephen Larkham, Radike Samo and Lote Tuqiri who will pull on the boots as wildcard players.
Play begins at 12pm AEST on Saturday, with Sunday’s final scheduled for 5.40pm.