A six day turnaround sees Ireland change little in their team selection as they face into a game that is bound to have an exciting atmosphere.
Jack Carty starts with Joey Carberry getting onto the bench as Jonathan Sexton is given the weekend off. Ireland can use Carty’s tactical kicking to ensure that the game played deep in the Japanese half.
Some eyebrows were raised by Peter O’Mahony’s inclusion, having been removed for a failed head injury assessment (HIA) test against Scotland. But this appears to have been more of a blunder during the game, as Bundee Aki was also being assessed at the same time, although the team management has not admitted this exactly.
Aki makes way for Chris Farrell, who looked solid when he came on last weekend. The backs show more changes with Rob Kearney and Keith Earls returning. Larmour drops to the bench with Andrew Conway taking a break after playing well last weekend.
Jack Conan hurt a foot in training, so Rhys Rudduck comes into the match day squad. Sean Cronin also gets a place on the bench. He’ll be looking for a chance to get on the pitch and show his pace. But if Rory Best lasts another full eighty minutes, he may have to wait.
|Cian Healy||1||Keita Inagaki|
|Rory Best (Captain)||2||Shota Horie|
|Tadhg Furlong||3||Jiwon Koo|
|Iain Henderson||4||Luke Thompson|
|James Ryan||5||James Moore|
|Peter O’Mahony||6||Kazuki Himeno|
|Josh van der Flier||7||Pieter Labuschagne (Captain)|
|CJ Stander||8||Amanaki Lelei Mafi|
|Conor Murray||9||Yutaka Nagare|
|Jack Carty||10||Yu Tamura|
|Jacob Stockdale||11||Lomano Lemeki (replacing Will Tupou)|
|Chris Farrell||12||Ryoto Nakamura|
|Garry Ringrose||13||Timothy Lafaele|
|Keith Earls||14||Kotaro Matsushima|
|Rob Kearney||15||Ryohei Yamanaka|
|Sean Cronin||16||Atsushi Sakate|
|Dave Kilcoyne||17||Isileli Nakajima|
|Andrew Porter||18||Asaeli Ai Valu|
|Tadhg Beirne||19||Wimpie van der Walt|
|Rhys Ruddock||20||Michael Leitch|
|Luke McGrath||21||Fumiaki Tanaka|
|Joey Carbery||22||Rikiya Matsuda|
The Japanese certainly showed a lot of attacking capability last week against a soft Russian side, but they made far too many mistakes for this Ireland team to be anxious about getting a positive result. Perhaps it was a nervous start for them, playing in the first game of the tournament in front of their home crowd. They may improve this week.
However, their defensive play was so poor that I have no doubts that the Irish team can unlock a few tries. If we manage possession and territory correctly, we should be able to win with a decent margin.
The only issue, and it has cropped up a number of times in the first week, is the trouble that heat and humidity are having on the players. You can see that many are having trouble catching their breath and not a few players are suffering cramp after sixty or so minutes.
The fact that Rory Best, about to retire from the professional game, lasted a full eighty minutes last Sunday tells me that Joe Schmidt and his team have gotten some of their preparation spot on. Keep a close eye on this over the coming weeks; if Ireland still look fresher than opponents at full time, then it may be a sign that we will be more successful this time around.
In Other News
Compare the performance to England’s robust but shaky performances so far. The number of mistakes against USA yesterday belies the easiness of their victory. If they seriously think themselves contenders, then they will have to clean up their act a lot, and quickly.
The game was played at a fast pace, punishing the less nimble Americans to the brink of exhaustion, however, England squandered a huge number of chances. Nothing I have seen makes me believe they will make the final. England’s big tests against Argentina and France will tell more; I think they should be nervous.
Samoan high tackles were in the news after they played Russia. This is worrying because we play them last, just before a potential clash against South Africa. With luck, we will have enough of a lead on the pool to be able to rest players for this game. The danger of concussion injury ruling players out of the knock-out stages looms large.
The only surprise so far this year has been Uruguay’s victory of Fiji. The delightful emotion on their captain’s face during the post match interview tells the whole story.
Rugby World Cups don’t throw up too many surprises generally, and it is especially rare for third tier countries to take a scalp. But every tournament will have one or maybe two games which will cause eyebrows to be raised.
Last time around Japan came from behind to beat South Africa on the same day that the Irish had an easy run out against the Canadians. They may not have as much to offer this year, but they are a danger, especially playing in their own backyard. Let’s hope that Joe has the team fully primed so that there are no mistakes on Saturday.