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Easterby: 'We're trying to drive the ability to play with speed'

The Ireland defence coach says the squad have been working on playing high-tempo rugby.

Stuart McCloskey in possession during today's Captain's Run at the Aviva Stadium.
Stuart McCloskey in possession during today's Captain's Run at the Aviva Stadium.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SIMON EASTERBY SAYS Ireland are aiming to play with pace when they take on Japan at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow.

Japan won plenty of admirers during the 2019 World Cup – where they beat both Ireland and Scotland in the pool stages – for their ambition to play a creative, high-tempo attacking style of rugby.

With that in mind, Ireland have put a major emphasis on playing a high-intensity game in the lead-up to tomorrow’s game in Dublin, with defence coach Easterby outlining that it’s been a key focus on the training pitch.

“As a group we’re trying to drive the ability to play with speed ourselves,” said Easterby, speaking during today’s Captain’s Run at the Aviva Stadium.

“We don’t want to be slowing the game down unnecessarily, so it is important that we get into our game as quickly as we can, not get shocked by what Japan throw at us.

“They will try and play quickly, we’ve got to make sure that we don’t allow them to do that when they have the ball, have good discipline, don’t give them any easy opportunities to get territory and play the game in our third.

simon-easterby Ireland defence coach Simon Easterby. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Then when we have the ball it’s about playing smart, making sure we play with our heads up and wherever the space is, we’re going to attack that space.

“But we certainly don’t want to be slowing the game down unnecessarily, so we’ll be looking to do something similar (to Japan), making sure that we play what is in front of us but we play we high tempo and speed, and that’s how we’ve tried to create the last 10-12 days in the training environment.”

Last week’s defeat to the British and Irish Lions was Japan’s first Test game since the 2019 World Cup, and while the Brave Blossoms never fully hit their stride in Murrayfield, they still produced some flashes of quality in attack.

“They pose a threat across the park,” Easterby continued.

They like to keep width in their game, they play with speed, with high tempo, they’ve got really good skills across the board. Their forwards are comfortable playing little intricate passes, and obviously as we saw last week against the Lions when they are given space out wide they have massive threats in players that can break the gainline.

“We played them reasonably recently in the World Cup, they’ve only had a couple of games since, but not too much has changed. They’ll come up with something different I’m sure, they’re really well coached, but it does pose us plenty of threats across the park, not just out wide, but through the forwards as well.”

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“Test match rugby is about how well we can prepare the players, and how well and how quickly the players adapt to their new surroundings. There is plenty of familiarity here (in the squad) with players who have been here before but there’s some new guys as well, so it’s about getting them up to speed.

“Test match rugby is quicker, it’s more physical, there is less time on both sides of the ball so it’s crucial that we start well, that we don’t give Japan momentum and opportunity to get into their game on both sides of the ball.

“It is crucial that we start well and it’s something we’ve been driving since the start of camp last week, that we’ve got to get on the same page quickly and make sure we start well on Saturday so that we can get on the front foot.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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