Tommy Dickson/INPHO Jacob Stockdale catches a ball at the Aviva Stadium yesterday.

Farrell's strong Ireland XV underlines threat posed by exciting Japan

Memories from the 2019 World Cup remain very fresh.

ANDY FARRELL’S TEAM selection told us everything we needed to know about how seriously Ireland are taking the challenge of Japan at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin today [KO 1pm, RTÉ]. 

With seven players away on Lions duty, a couple of others injured, and three senior players given this month off, Farrell is down a fair few of his regular front-liners. 

Very aware of the potential for this game to be a banana skin, Farrell has essentially opted for the most experienced team available to him. There are fresh faces on the bench in the uncapped Gavin Coombes, as well as the inexperienced Ryan Baird, Shane Daly, Craig Casey, but Farrell certainly isn’t experimenting greatly here. 

Memories of 2019 remain fresh. Japan rocked Ireland’s World Cup hopes on a frenzied night in Shizuoka, following it up with a win over Scotland that sent them into a first-ever quarter-final.

They hadn’t played a Test for 19 months before last weekend’s clash with the Lions and even with the obvious and understandable levels of rust, Jamie Joseph’s side still showed some of their quality.

A week on, they will likely be more cohesive, slicker, and with better handling skills. While the Lions scored four tries last weekend – struggling for their own cohesion at times – Japan launched something of a resurgence in the second half, pinning the Lions into their own half and coming very close to scoring more than just one try. 

Ireland will need to be sharp to avoid Japan building the kind of momentum that can make them so irresistible in attack.

kotaro-matsushima Tommy Dickson / INPHO Kotaro Matsushima is one of the Japanese stars. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Joey Carbery – making his first Test start since 2019 – will be in charge of Ireland making good tactical decisions as he links up with Jamison Gibson-Park in the starting halfback pairing.

The big but skillful midfield pairing of Stuart McCloskey and Chris Farrell certainly gives Carbery plenty of scope to be bailed out of any trouble he finds himself in, while the Irish back three of Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, and Jacob Stockdale have experience and plenty of attacking guile.

Dave Kilcoyne and Finlay Bealham should deliver steady guidance in the front row as Rónan Kelleher – fresh from training with the Lions in Jersey for two weeks – gets a big starting chance at hooker.

Captain James Ryan has overcome an adductor issue to be named in the second row alongside Ultan Dillane, while Peter O’Mahony provides further leadership in a back row that also features the energetic Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris – another player making a welcome return after missing the Six Nations due to concussion.

There’s plenty to be excited about on the Ireland bench but most eyes will be on Munster back row Coombes when he gets his first cap. The Skibbereen man has been superb all season and will be eager to make a big impact on debut.

Japan boss Jamie Joseph has made a few tweaks to his starting XV, which looks stronger for them. The outstanding Kazuki Himeno is restored to the number eight jersey after his try-scoring performance off the bench against the Lions.

World Cup sensation Kotaro Matsushima, who was very elusive last weekend, moves from the right wing to fullback to make room for debutant Semisi Masirewa – a native of Fiji who has Super Rugby experience with the Force and Sunwolves.

peter-omahony-dave-kilcoyne-and-jamison-gibson-park Tommy Dickson / INPHO James Ryan and Ireland will need to be sharp today. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Finally, Naoto Saito comes in at scrum-half after a high-tempo cameo off the bench in Edinburgh last time out.

There are nine of the team that beat Ireland at the World Cup in 2019 starting again today, so it’s unlikely that the Japanese will be lacking in self-belief.

Ireland are favourites at home in Dublin but Japan have the potential to cause them serious stress if Farrell’s men give them a sniff.


15. Hugo Keenan
14. Jordan Larmour
13. Chris Farrell
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Joey Carbery
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Rónan Kelleher
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. James Ryan (captain)
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris


16. Rob Herring
17. Ed Byrne
18. John Ryan
19. Ryan Baird
20. Gavin Coombes
21. Craig Casey
22. Billy Burns
23. Shane Daly


15. Kotaro Matsushima
14. Semisi Masirewa
13. Timothy Lafaele
12. Ryoto Nakamura
11. Siosaia Fifita
10. Yu Tamura
9. Naoto Saito

1. Keita Inagaki
2. Atsushi Sakate
3. Jiwon Koo
4. Wimpie van der Walt
5. James Moore
6. Michael Leitch (captain)
7. Lappies Labuschagné
8. Kazuki Himeno


16. Kosuke Horikoshi
17. Craig Millar
18. Asaeli Ai Valu
19. Jack Cornelson
20. Tevita Tatafu
21. Kaito Shigeno
22. Rikiya Matsuda
23. Shane Gates

Referee: Karl Dickson [RFU].

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