Hadleigh Parkes column: World Cup quarter-final v France and naked onsens

Hadleigh Parkes column
2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final: Wales v France
Venue: Oita Stadium, Oita Prefecture Date: Sunday, 20 October Kick-off: 08:15 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on every Wales game across BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

In his latest BBC Sport column, Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes looks forward to Sunday's World Cup quarter-final against France and reveals how his team-mates have taken to Japan's naked hot springs.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I'm playing in a World Cup quarter-final, and this Sunday's match against France is right up there with the biggest matches of my career.

If we win in Oita, we know we'll be going to Yokohama with a chance to create history.

All of us know what's at stake. We either beat a tough French side and move on to Yokohama for the semi-finals and final - or we'll be flying back to Wales on Monday.

You just want to keep winning and winning and there's a big carrot at the end of it all. It's so exciting.

It's amazing to be here in the final eight and we're really hoping we can be there in the last four.

My parents, Bill and Janet, have come out to watch, as have my brother Greg and his wife Hayley.

It's mum's birthday on Friday and then, if all goes well against France, I'll have my two other brothers coming out next week, and it will be my parents' 40th wedding anniversary next weekend. So that's even more incentive to play well on Sunday!

No injury issues, just grief from team-mates

I took a bit of a hit to my shoulder in the win over Uruguay, but it was nothing too serious, the shoulder's good and everything seems to be okay, just a few niggles.

Sometimes with injuries you won't get any for ages and then other times you get a couple of different niggles at once - like I've had at the World Cup with the broken bone in my hand and the shoulder knock - and it's just about trying to manage them.

Hadleigh Parkes in action against Uruguay
Hadleigh Parkes in action in Wales' final pool game against Uruguay

My body's feeling pretty good and it's just a case of making sure I do everything to be in the best possible shape for the game.

When I had all the strapping on different parts of my body, I mentioned in a previous column that I was getting called Robocop.

That only started with one comment from Ross Moriarty but, now I've mentioned it in my column, I've been getting more grief from the other lads.

Every now and then the lads will make a comment about my columns, but I'm just glad they're reading them. It all adds to the numbers!

Embracing Japanese culture - in the nude

There's certainly not as much happening in Oita compared to the other, bigger cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. It's more of a quiet, beachy type place with holidaymakers here for the onsens, the Japanese hot springs.

The onsens seem to be the big attraction in Oita and nearby Beppu, where we were staying for the Fiji game.

The big difference between these hot springs and the ones you might see elsewhere in the world is that Japanese convention dictates that, in most onsens, you've got to be naked.

The boys started off in the onsens with their shorts on, then they got down to their budgie smugglers and now everyone's in the nude.

The boys are embracing it. It is a bit different and something you're not used to, but it's the culture out here. It's the way it's done.

Some onsens are a bit nicer than others and there are a few boys who are really enjoying them.

This is a nice area and we've had a couple of wins around here, against Fiji in Oita and against Uruguay in Kumamoto.

Now we're back in Oita, it would be amazing if we could get a second win in this city in Sunday's big match against the French.

We know how difficult it's going to be against them - they've got some great individuals, some big boys and a lot of talent.

Trying not to peak too soon

As a squad, you don't want to be chomping at the bit too early in the week. You can get yourself overhyped, then all of a sudden you're coming down and then you need to get yourself back up again.

So it's about building nicely, training well, ticking off the boxes that you usually tick off, a couple of meetings, a couple of walk-throughs and the boys will talk to each other to go through what we want out of the training sessions and to take into the game.

The start of the week is getting prepared and the end of the week is about finalising, making sure everything's in place.

It's nice to relax the day before the match. The boys will probably go for a coffee and watch the two Saturday quarter-finals, England-Australia and Ireland-New Zealand, in our hotel.

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You don't want to play the game too early in your heads so when you wake up on the morning of the match, that's when you start to build and get excited.

I don't really have a set routine on match days. I'll get up, have breakfast and then it's just a matter of relaxing during the morning over a coffee with the boys, or the family if they're around.

Then we have the pre-match meal, which is pretty similar most weeks, and then I'll have a shower, get strapped up at the team hotel before the team meeting and then we're on the bus.

It's a fair distance to the stadium from our hotel here so, seeing as it's a 40-minute ride in, you don't want to get too hyped when you're on the bus.

You're relaxed at that point. Driving up to the stadium's pretty exciting and then you get into it properly with the warm-up.

Then it's the match. It's always amazing to pull on that red jersey, and to do it in a World Cup quarter-final on Sunday is going to be extra special.

Hadleigh Parkes was speaking to BBC Sport Wales' Dafydd Pritchard.

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