Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 3°C
# Regrets
'We’re going to have to stay tight. There will be a lot of questions from the outside'
Ireland played into Japan’s hands in their shock 19-12 defeat to Japan.

THE TRAIN TO Kobe today is likely to have been a very quiet one for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland.

They must rebound positively against Russia on Thursday, a game for which they will make wholesale changes, but there are deep wounds that require tending to first.

jack-carty-dejected-after-the-game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Jack Carty after Ireland's 19-12 defeat to Japan. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The review is likely to be ruthless as Schmidt pinpoints how his men played into the hands of a sensational effort from Japan at Ecopa Stadium in Shizuoka. The Irish players and Schmidt looked shell-shocked out on the pitch afterwards.  

“It’s not going to be nice to look at,” said a despondent Jack Carty last night after Ireland had been stunned on a 19-12 scoreline.

Schmidt needs to be self-critical too, with Ireland’s game plan having seen them overplay their hand at times, while they bizarrely didn’t go after Japan in the air apart from two successful regathers of kicks from Conor Murray and Joey Carbery.

Virtually everything Ireland did after going 12-3 ahead fed the strengths they knew Japan would have. When they needed to starve the Brave Blossoms of possession and turnover chances, Ireland were incredibly generous. Jamie Joseph’s side took full advantage.

“I think no matter what type of game plan you go in with, if you don’t get your accuracy right against a team like that you’re going to suffer,” said flanker Rhys Ruddock post-match.

“I don’t think it was a case of the game plan, I think it was just the execution that let us down at times and credit to them for the amount of pressure they put us under.

“We weren’t given anything cheaply in terms of the breakdown, the contact areas, the way they covered the backfield. They were really good today so credit to them. We’ll have to go have a hard look, dust ourselves off and come back stronger.”

Ireland never seemed in control of the tie as momentum swept against them following the first-quarter tries from Garry Ringrose and Rob Kearney.

Schmidt and his leaders will ask how Ireland’s composure evaded them amidst the red-hot atmosphere in Shizuoka.

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andrew-porter-dejected-after-the-game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Andrew Porter leaves the pitch in Shizuoka. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“There was an awareness there that we didn’t have the ball for large parts of the game but it’s a balance of not flogging your forwards and trying to keep the ball in front of them,” said Carty

“I suppose it’s something we’ll have to look at in terms of how we keep possession and how we put pressure on them.”

Schmidt and his players are likely to identify every problem they had against Japan as being fixable in a short space of time, but how Ireland respond to this major setback is the big question.

Their confidence will have been dented by this shock defeat – they are human beings, after all – and though they will be expected to beat Russia on Thursday and then Samoa in their final pool game, it remains to be seen if they can recover to make any real impact on this World Cup.

“We have to look at what went wrong and repair it quickly because we have to get things right for Thursday,” said Carty.

“We’re going to have to stay tight. There will probably be a lot of questions from the outside and I think it’s going to speak volumes for the team character how we show up on Thursday.”

Ruddock was in agreement: Ireland must turn the page quickly. If they wallow in this dejection, things could turn nasty in Japan.

“We can’t change the result today and that feeling of disappointment is not going to go away but there’s still a lot to play for and the strength of the group will be determined by the way that we bounce back,” said Ruddock.

“We’ve already spoken about that. We’re going to be tested now as a group, as a collective, in terms of what we’re about. Everything we do between now and five days’ time against Russia will add up to a performance that will either make us or break us.”

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