Rugby-Battered and bruised but Australia happy to come through Fiji test

By Peter Rutherford

SAPPORO, Japan, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Battered Australian bodies were dipped gingerly into ice baths on Sunday as they continued the recovery process from a bruising World Cup opening win over Fiji that underlined the extreme physical challenges the players will face each week in Japan.

Wallabies strength and conditioning coach Brad Harrington told reporters in Sapporo on Sunday that the first 60 hours after the match were crucial to get bodies back on track and that having a week before they meet Wales in their second Pool D match was a huge advantage.

"It was pretty physical, those boys took a look of contact," he said of Australia's 39-21 bonus-point victory. "The Fijians are very fast, very big, so there was a lot of momentum and force going through.

"The next 60 hours is really important for recovery. Already this morning the boys have been through the recovery (process) around their ice baths, rehydration and nutrition."

If Australia are to win World Cup title No. 3 they will have to play six more games in Japan, culminating in a final on Nov. 2. The Wallabies reached the title game four years ago in England before losing to New Zealand and Harrington said that experience was invaluable.

"What we learned is that it's an unbelievable physical, mental and tactical achievement to get to and win a Rugby World Cup final," he said.

"We've changed a lot from what we learned last time and it's a great challenge."

Christian Lealiifano was one of those subjected to the ferocious Fijian tackling at the Sapporo Dome but Harrington said it would take more than that to rattle the flyhalf, who is back in a Wallabies shirt after winning his battle with leukaemia.

"In his position he carries the ball to the line and the big Fijians didn't miss him last night," he said.

"You can't really challenge Christian's character and his work ethic, what he's come through in the last few years. He's very sore this morning from some of those hits but it's great to see him out there doing what he's doing."

While Australia have come through one huge physical test against Fiji, they will face another in the shape of Wales next Sunday in Tokyo.

"They pride themselves on their fitness. They are a very fit team," added Harrington, who spent several years working with Welsh side Scarlets.

"We've got an eight-day turnaround so that's awesome for us, gives us a bit more time to get them ready and a bit more time to prepare for Wales." (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)