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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019
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JVDF ready to do without scrum cap again as Ireland board bullet train

The flanker reckons it’s around 15 years since he played without headgear, but the heat in New Jersey and Japan has forced a change.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

John Fallon reports from Tokyo

IRELAND’S PLAYERS AND management will get their first taste of a bullet train and life outside Tokyo today when they depart for the Ecopa Stadium, which was a venue for the 2002 Fifa World Cup and will again feature when Japan host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The squad will speed by bullet train 200 kilometres southwest to Hamamatsu ahead of Saturday’s clash (KO 6am Irish time). They have also begun making an impact on the ground as they prepare to face the hosts.

The players got their first real taste of Japan yesterday on a day off, with two groups of them going to see some sumo wrestlers in training.

Ireland players and management pose for a photo with Sumo Wrestlers Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Coach Joe Schmidt led a small Irish delegation who were guests at a discussion event on Tuesday evening in Tokyo which was organised by Ireland-Japan Chamber of Commerce. The Irish ambassador to Japan, Mrs Anne Barrington, was among the guests which also included representatives of the Australia New Zealand Chamber of Commerce and the British Chamber of Commerce.

Focus will return to on-field matters today with a  first full training session scheduled in Tokyo before departure for Hamamatsu.

It remains to be seen how many of this inexperienced Irish squad will make that trip in two years but Josh van der Flier knows this dry run is bound to be beneficial.

Josh van der Flier Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It’s pretty cool to play in the stadiums the World Cup will be in and getting used to the culture and of course Japan, who are in our group. It’s a great experience,” said the 24-year old.

The Wicklow man won his eighth cap in the 55-19 win over the USA on Saturday in New Jersey but expects a tougher task in the two upcoming meetings with the Brave Blossoms.

“Japan are capable of beating the best teams in the world, so it will be a big step up, and we’ll have to improve on last week.

They seem very well drilled, playing really fast tempo game, it’ll be a tough game, we’ll have to be at our best. They had a really close game against Wales, beat South Africa, so they’re up there with some really, really good teams.”

The Leinster flanker opted not to wear his distinctive red scrumcap because of the heat in New Jersey last weekend and it could remain off this weekend given the humidity currently being experienced in Japan.

“It was too warm. I tried it during the week and it was too warm, so I thought it’d be a bit more comfortable without it. it’s the first time in about 15 years I haven’t worn it. I’ll probably take it off this week if it’s too hot again,” he added.

A view inside the Sumo Stables Probably just as well the players sat this one out. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Five players — Jacob Stockdale, Dave Heffernan, Rory Scannell, James Ryan and Andrew Porter — all made their debuts against the USA last weekend. There are three more uncapped players in the touring party but it remains to be seen if John Cooney, Rory O’Loughlin and Kieran Treadwell make their bow this weekend.

Ireland skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy says there will be a bit of mixing up to be done, but changes would not be done for the sake of it as Japan will be a more formidable outfit that the US Eagles.

“I think there’ll a little bit of continuity, we didn’t come over with the idea of making changes just to keep everyone happy,” said Murphy.

“First match here is going to be very tough. they are a good side, we’ll try keep some of the combinations we had, and just freshen it up a little at the same time.”

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John Fallon

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