Solidity all important as Ireland tackle Sunwolves-laded Japan after heavy travel week

Experimentation has taken a back seat this week after five new caps were unleashed against the US.


Ireland players arrive into Hamamatsu Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

PREPARATION TIME IS always a hot topic for Joe Schmidt and his famous attention to detail.

His players will have had plenty of opportunities to mull over analysis screens in recent days while making their long trip from New Jersey to Tokyo and on via bullet train to Shizuoka, but that movement has restricted their on-field time.

A full training session in Tokyo this morning came before the bullet train trip, and that will be the most extensive boots-on session the squad will get with a captain’s run to come tomorrow ahead of a lunch-time (6am Irish time) kick-off on Saturday.

Niall Scannell and Cian Healy Jack Conan, Niall Scannell, Cian Healy and Finlay Bealham arrive in Hamamatsu station. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After last weekend’s energy-packed, new-face filled romp in New Jersey then, there is a  familiar and experienced look to the side selected. Naturally, Paddy Jackson slots straight back in at out-half and offers – at the very least – the promise of a reliable exit strategy after Joey Carbery’s struggles before hobbling out of the tour injured.

Game management is an innate part of Jackson’s make-up and he will tasked with guiding Ireland through all 80 minutes as Rory Scannell is the sole back-up option at 10. The younger Scannell brother acquitted himself very well in that role last weekend, but will hope to show his wares in his favoured position. His kicking from hand is an element of his skill-set we expect to see a lot of. Between the Munster centre, his provincial team-mates in the back three and Luke McGrath at scrum-half, Schmidt has selected an array of kicking talent who will surely look to turn Jamie Joseph’s team around and force them to roll the dice from deep.

Rory Scannell Scannell and Ringrose form a nicely balanced midfield partnership. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Up front, Schmidt has made just one change to the pack and last week’s new caps Dave Heffernan, Andrew Porter and James Ryan have been omitted from the 23 this time around. Set-piece solidity and relative experience has been favoured for this Test. Having unleashed five new faces on to the international scene last weekend, Ulster lock Kieran Treadwell and Leinster centre-turned-wing Rory O’Loughlin will win caps of the bench, leaving new Ulster recruit John Cooney – a Heineken Cup winner under Schmidt – as the last remaining uncapped man on tour with just one match remaining.

Jack O'Donoghue Jack O'Donoghue unfazed by ice baths. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dan Leavy breaks into the starting pack on the back of a tremendous season at the breakdown for Leinster and his exploits on the deck will be vital in greasing the wheels for Ireland. Fast ball has a funny way of making cobwebs shake off very easily.

The hosts, on the other hand, should have little trouble showing cohesion and familiarity. Though Joseph has not faced into a great deal of big Test matches during his time in charge of the Brave Blossoms and only has eight survivors from the World Cup squad in this 23 (all start), he also has now fewer than 12 of Japan’s Super Rugby side, the Sunwolves, in the starting XV.

Among the non-franchise trio of course, will be the talismanic Chiefs back row Michael Leitch who provides as hard an edge as you’ll find outside the world’s top five. Amanaki Mafi, who played such a starring role in the Brave Blossoms’ World Cup, has been plying his trade with the Melbourne Rebels after a bust-up with Bath’s medical team over the scheduling of his physio appointments last season.

Paddy Jackson, Kieran Treadwell and Sean Reidy Jackson Treadwell and Reidy en route to their bullet rain this morning. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Plenty of challenges for Ireland then, between the travel, humidity and pace of Joseph’s attack; but there should be little to fear with such a solid tight five, powerful back row and that assured and classy back-line.


15. Ryuji Noguchi
14. Kotaro Matsushima
13. William Tupou*
12. Timothy Lafaele
11. Kenki Fukuoka
10. Yu Tamura
9. Fumiaki Tanaka

1. Keira Inagaki
2. Shota Horie (Captain)
3. Heiichiro Ito
4. Kotaro Yatabe
5. Uwe Helu
6. Michael Leitch
7. Yoshitaka Tokunaga
8. Amanaki Mafi


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16. Yusuke Niwai
17. Shintaro Ishihara
18. Takuma Asahara
19. Henrik Tui
20. Shuhei Matsuhashi
21. Yutaka Nagare
22.Derek Carpenter
23. Rikiya Matsuda


15. Simon Zebo
14. Andrew Conway
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Rory Scannell
11. Keith Earls
10. Paddy Jackson
9. Luke McGrath

1. Cian Healy
2. Niall Scannell
3. John Ryan
4. Quinn Roux
5. Devin Toner
6. Rhys Ruddock (Captain)
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jack Conan


16. James Tracy
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Finlay Bealham
19. Kieran Treadwell*
20. Jack O’Donoghue
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Rory O’Loughlin*
23. Tiernan O’Halloran

(*Denotes a player uncapped at international level)

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Sean Farrell

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