Lions replenishing after humid Hong Kong slog
PAUL O’CONNELL moved very slowly down the gangway after Saturday night’s post-match press conference.
Every few painful steps he brought a container of liquid to his lips and squirted liquids into his mouth – a mixture of electrolytes and salts Lions head doctor James Robson revealed later. The effort of raising his arm was a struggle.
“Those conditions were close to the most difficult I’ve ever played in,” said O’Connell afterwards.
It’s not hard to take him at his word. Saturday night’s game was played in 94% humidity with a temperature that never dipped below the mid 30s despite kicking off at 7.30pm in the evening. Hong Kong, as everyone learned, is one big and constant sweat-box.
The real worry after Saturday’s game was dehydration of the players. No-one was weighed immediately after the game but it’s safe to assume that everyone involved shed a few kilos. It was more important for them to replenish the fluids lost.
The basic rule is that you continue to imbibe chilled water until your pee turns clear indicating that you are rehydrated. It sounds more straight-forward than it is. As O’Connell’s weary movements attested even the effort of drinking water was a struggle.
The Lions party departed Hong Kong on Sunday night and arrive(d) in Perth at 6.50am local time Monday morning.
The decision to fly through the night was made after consultation between team management and Dr Robson: “The decision was how to fit in a flight and balance the need to get to Australia and prepare while the players have enough time for recovery and assessment.
“This (flying through the night) is probably the best balance between what the medical staff believes is needed and what the coaches require training wise.”
So with the sweltering heat, humidity and, hopefully, the daily mid-afternoon stench of sewage and rubbish – unsurprising in a city of over seven million people - it’s on to the less brutal heat of Perth…or “real” winter as Jonathan Sexton laughingly put it.
“After what we’ve experienced this week weather in the low 20s will make it seem like back home…winter!” he quipped.
Perth is also when the die-hard supporters are separated from the weekenders. A large number of Britons were flying back to London from Hong Kong on Sunday evening after arriving on a weekend break for the one game.
It is also expected that there will be a particularly large Irish presence at all the games, adding to the three Ireland and Munster supporters who took great pleasure and no small about of pride in belting out ‘The Fields of Athenry’ in the heat of Hong Kong Stadium.
The families of the Irish players are not expected to start arriving for a couple of weeks yet as the players continue to familiarise themselves with new calls and strategies ahead of the Tour’s opening Test on June 22.