It is over six months since Byron Ralston swapped Western Australia for the west of Ireland and the days of playing with a dry ball are fast becoming a distant memory.
When Ralston spoke to fellow Australians Jarrad Butler, Mack Hansen and John Porch while weighing up whether to leave the Western Force for Connacht, the weather popped up in each conversation.
Now he knows why. Wind and rain have greeted all of Connacht's games at the Sportsground this season, with the added bonus of a yellow weather warning in place during last weekend's win against the Cell C Sharks.
"Slowly but surely I’m getting used to it," said Ralston. "It’s still taking a bit of time. I always turn to Mack or Porchy in the backline and say, 'Jeez, really. Is this how it is?’
"But the beauty of it is we get to train in it every day, so when it comes to game time and it’s howling, the rain is coming horizontal, we’re used to it. It’s like having a 16th man on the field really.
"Ideally I’d love it to be dry, 25 degrees, no rain whatsoever, but that’s just not the case over here and it’s something I’ve had to adjust to and take my time getting used to."
The versatile Ralston came off the bench against the Sharks for his 10th Connacht appearance as Andy Friend’s men kept their play-off hopes alive in the BKT United Rugby Championship with a crucial bonus-point success.
With two wins from two in the Challenge Cup, Connacht can move a step closer to a home tie in the knockout stages with victory over Brive in Galway on Saturday, with Ralston expected to be promoted to the starting line-up.
It is a crucial period in Connacht’s season. They visit Newcastle next weekend in their final Challenge Cup pool match before another must-win home game against Emirates Lions on 27 January prior to the break for the Six Nations.
"We want to be playing finals footy," he said. "We don’t want the season to end early, that’s for sure. We want to be playing into May, not pulling up stumps any earlier than that.
"First task is this weekend, to get the five points, then go away to Newcastle and snatch the win there, and get a home quarter for our fans. Then our heads turn to the Lions and climbing up that ladder in the URC.
"Everyone in this building believes it, from the guys packing the vans to the players to everyone upstairs."
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Cathal Forde scored two tries in Connacht's vital win over the Sharks
Ralston’s sole try in Connacht colours was an intercept score in the derby defeat at Munster in November, but with their attacking game showing signs of improvement of late the 22-year-old is confident of adding to his tally.
"We implemented a couple of new systems there and in attack it always takes time," said Ralston.
"People speak about flow in attack, I think that’s crucial. Even combinations and connections between lads out on the training pitch and in games. As you see the season go on, our attack is going to get better.
"There were a couple of nice tries on the weekend [against the Sharks]. There were a few moments we missed, which again we’ve got to be better on this weekend."
Connacht were 31-24 winners away to Brive in round two and although the French club have since won three games on the bounce in the Top 14, they remain winless in Europe and are expected to ring the changes for their visit to the Sportsground.
Ralston said Connacht are targeting a fast start, and another bonus-point win.
"We’ve got to front up for that first five or 10 minutes," he said. "A Brive team coming over to Connacht, there’s a bit of travel in that. If we blow them off the park in those first 10 minutes...
"It’s going to be a really good day out for us. We’re in a good mindset. We’ve just come off the field after having a really good training session, lads are pushing each other.
"If we start off with a bang, I think cracks will start to appear, and if we stay on top and suffocate them we should get the five points."
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