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Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Ireland’s opening game of the Autumn Nations Series, as Andy Farrell’s side take on Japan at the Aviva Stadium today.

As expected, the Ireland head coach has gone with a strong starting XV with one eye on next weekend’s clash with New Zealand, and Farrell will be hoping Japan offer his team a stern challenge in anticipation of what’s coming down the line.

We know the visitors like to play high-tempo, attacking rugby, but they’ve been low on match practice – today’s game will represent just their fourth Test outing since their memorable exploits at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

It’s a bright, windy day in Dublin, where kick-off is at 1pm. 

There’s plenty of pre-matching reading on The42, starting with Garry Doyle’s in-depth look at captain Johnny Sexton, who wins his 100th Test cap today, which you can read here.

It’s not long ago that the Irish attack hit a major high point against England, that win at the end of this year’s Six Nations suggesting that Farrell and attack coach Mike Catt had made progress on that side of the game. Consistency is now the key.

You can read Murray Kinsella’s match preview here.

It’s a big day for this man. Johnny Sexton is set to become just the seventh man to win 100 Test caps for Ireland.

johnny-sexton-ahead-of-winning-his-100th-cap-for-ireland Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Johnny Sexton recieves a great reception on the occassion of his 100th Test cap. The teams are out, anthem time. 

And we’re off. Japan in their usual red and white strip, Ireland in a change of maroon and black. 

Pretty disappointing crowd in the Aviva, with lots of empty space around the ground. 

6mins: Ireland 7 Japan 0

Well that didn’t take long, James Lowe gets over in the corner after Ireland move the ball wide and exploit some space in the Japan defence.

Sexton adds a superb conversion and Ireland are up and running.

12mins: Ireland 14 Japan 0

Well this is not the start Japan would have wanted. The visitors have been ripped open for a second time, this time Andrew Conway applying the finish touch, with James Lowe doing really well to keep the ball alive under pressure in the build up. It’s a great start for Ireland’s two wingers.

Sextons adds the extras again and Ireland are well in control here.

20mins: Ireland 19 Japan 0

Conway has his second, finding himself in an acre of space after a well worked move by Ireland, which saw Aki, Sexton and Keenan combine nicely off the back of a powerful maul forward.

Sexton drags his conversion wide from the sideline, but you’d really worry for Japan now. Ireland have been totally dominant so far.

25mins: Ireland 22 Japan o

Sexton clips over three points from close range as Ireland add to their lead. Farrell’s side are playing some nice rugby, with Lowe and Conan showing nice hands to get the home side up the pitch. Japan are really struggling to deal with Ireland’s handling ability – the home side have broke from deep more than once already.

26mins: Conway thinks he’s in for a hat-trick, but after a quick TMO check the decision is no try, with no real complaints. Japan have lost Ben Gunter to injury, which is a real blow for the injury-depleted visitors.

31mins: Japan really struggling for any kind of territory. Fullback Kotaro Matsushima the latest to get stopped in his tracks as he met the frame of Tadhg Furlong – bit of a mismatch that one.

35mins: Ireland 29 Japan 0

That’s a really nice score from Ireland, and it was all down to Garry Ringrose. Just minutes after a superb bit if defensive work by the Leinster centre, he comes off the back of a ruck and breaks a tackle before feeding Gibson-Park, who is left with a simple finish.

Sexton converts, and it really easy plain sailing for Andy Farrell’s team, who now have four tries to their name already. This could get ugly. 

4omins: Ireland come close to a fifth try, but a TMO check shows that Tadhg Furlong knocked the ball on before powering over from close range. We go back for an Ireland penalty for offside, with Japan hooker Atsushi Sakate yellow-carded. 

The scrum from that penalty comes to nothing and that’s the last action of an extremely one-sided first half. Ireland have been totally dominant without being asked any real questions themselves. It’s not what you want with New Zealand coming to town next week, but Andy Farrell will have liked the variation in his team’s play, with those four first half tries all coming from the backline. 

We’ll be back with all the second half action shortly.

Second-half: Ireland leave Japan waiting for some time before coming back out for the second half. No changes for Ireland at the break, but you imagine it won’t be long before Andy Farrell looks to use his bench.

49mins: Ireland 36 Japan 0

The biggest cheer of the day – by a distance – and the Sunday papers get their front page picture as Johnny Sexton marks his 100th Test cap with a try.

It was another nice attacking move by Ireland – Ryan rose high to take a Kelleher lineout, and then Gibson-Park showed nice hands to play in Sexton, who broke a tackle before crossing, adding the conversion to boot. Safe to say he enjoyed that one.

Meanwhile Peter O’Mahony has come in for Josh van der Flier.

55mins: We have a new contender for try of the day as Bundee Aki gets over in the corner. It was a brilliant, free-flowing move, with Conway and Conan contributing two excellent passes.

Sexton misses the conversion, and Ireland lead 41-0.

As that is happening, Ireland’s new-look front row of Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong have been replaced. The Leinster trio enjoyed themselves out there today, an exciting sign of what’s to come, hopefully. Speaking the future, Leinster hooker Dan Sheehan is on for his debut.

57mins: That’s what you call a score against the run of play. Fifita crosses to at least give Japan something on the scoreboard, with Ireland leaving far too much space out wide. The conversion is well wide.

A few more changes for Ireland too, with Conor Murray and Iain Henderson both introduced, to go with the new front row of Cian Healy, Dan Sheehan and Finlay Bealham. 

61mins: A standing ovation as Johnny Sexton makes way for Joey Carbery, the Ireland captain pointing to the crest on his shirt as he leaves the field. Another good outing for the veteran out-half. Carbery will have wanted more than 20 minutes of action, and he’ll be keen to impress across the final quarter of this game. Over to you, Joey…

67mins: Another very popular substitution as Keith Earls replaces Bundee Aki, who had a strong outing. The game has really slowed down in the last couple of minutes as both teams empty their benches.

70mins: Ireland 48 Japan 5

A try for Garry Ringrose, which was the result of some great work by Iain Henderson, the second row kicking a loose ball up field and putting in the chase, leading to a five-metre scrum. From there it was bread and butter for Ireland, playing in Ringrose, who skipped one tackle to dot down. Joey Carbery converts and Ireland are buzzing out there again. There could be a few more tries left in this yet.

76mins: Ireland 53 Japan 5

We told you there was more coming. Conway eventually gets his hat-trick as he capitalises on a kick in behind by Murray, and some poor defensive work by Japan, who really should have cleared the danger. Carbery misses the conversion.

FULL-TIME: Ireland 60 Japan 5

Ireland finish on a high with another try, this time Cian Healy powering over from close range, with Carbery kicking the extras.

Well, that’s about an easy an afternoon as this team could have hoped for. Nine tries for Ireland, with plenty of exciting, free-flowing rugby to entertain the fans.

The style of play was hugely encouraging, but whether Ireland can repeat that against more formidable opposition is the big question. We’ll find out when New Zealand come to town next week.

Thanks for joining our liveblog this evening, we’ll have full reaction from the Aviva Stadium shortly. 

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Ciarán Kennedy


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