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Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 29 September 2020


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A very good morning, folks. And welcome along to another early weekend start to watch Ireland in World Cup action.

This morning, they meet the hosts, up-and-coming Japan who will be intent on putting on a show on home soil after a pretty low-octane opening night win over Russia.

Kick off is not until 8.15 on RTE and eir Sport, so you still have time to the kettle and your game face on.

Unfortunately for us neutrals and purveyors of popcorn-eating gifs across the internet, tensions on RTE’s pre-match build-up appear to have eased between Jamie Heaslip and Eddie O’Sullivan.

A winning camp is a happy camp, or perhaps Jamie’s just synced up to the groupflow on this outing. 

Ah, well. I’m sure there’s bound to be something in the game that test this unnatural alliance.

Here’s how the Brave Blossoms and the… eh, Ireland team will line up.

Japan have made a late change, taking Will Tupou out of the back three with Lemeki starting in his place.

Star wing Kenki Fukuoka is named on the bench after injury. 

You know the Ireland story by now, Jack Carty’s big day in the sun. Kearney and Earls are back in business and ironman Rory Best seems determined to prove that there was no need to bring two back-up hookers all the way to Japan.


15. Ryohei Yamanaka
14. Kotaro Matsushima
13. Timothy Lafaele
12. Ryoto Nakamura
11. Lomano Lava Lemeki
10. Yu Tamura
9. Yutaka Nagare

1. Keita Inagaki
2. Shota Horie
3. Jiwon Koo
4. Luke Thompson
5. James Moore
6. Kazuki Himeno
7. Pieter Labuschagne (captain)
8. Amanaki Lelei Mafi


16. Atsushi Sakate
17. Isileli Nakajima
18. Asaeli Ai Valu
19. Wimpie van der Walt
20. Michael Leitch
21. Fumiaki Tanaka
22. Rikiya Matsuda
23. Kenki Fukuoka


15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Chris Farrell
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Jack Carty
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. CJ Stander


16. Sean Cronin
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Andrew Porter
19. Tadhg Beirne
20. Rhys Ruddock 
21. Luke McGrath
22. Joey Carbery
23. Jordan Larmour

Referee: Angus Gardner [Australia]. 

And here the come, Ireland and Japan emerge for the eighth meeting between sides.

One way traffic so far, and the smart money is on Ireland maintaining that 100% record.

Enjoy your anthems.



 Carty gets us under way in Shizuoka, where it’s a balmy 26 degrees.

Japan clear and Ireland’s first line-out is secure and clean ball.

Murray giving a good tempo before Carty kicks to turn Lemeki.

The late call-in hits his clearance to the 10.


Garry Ringrose makes a nice half-break with an arcing run. But Ireland lose the ball at the breakdown after a Furlong carry and the red and whites will return serve.


Jamie Joseph’s men looking very nice indeed in attack and they are making inroads as they go through the phases.

Lafaele grubbers through and Matsushima goes in chase, but nobody beats Jacob Stockdale to a bouncing ball behind the try-line.


Ireland are rattled by the tempo being set by the Blossoms.

Peter O’Mahony is penalised on the ground and Yu Tamura will have a shot at goal.


Tamura has carried his kicking yips over from the Russia match, he dunts his straightforward effort left of the posts.


Peter O’Mahony’s rarely on the wrong side of the breakdown calls for long.

big tackle from Chris Farrell on Himeno allows the Corkman force a turnover penalty.


Jack Carty shows his heads-up skill-set and sends a penalty cross-field towards Keith Earls.

There’s enough cover there to box the Limerick man out though.


Here come Ireland showing their offloading skill so-long lamented as Stockdale, Ringrose and Kearney throw the ball around down the left before Furlong knocks on.


Garry Ringrose is hitting his very top form and Jack Carty’s second cross-field kick of the day caught him at the apex of his leap.

The centre came down with the clean catch and kept his legs pumping to get over the line.

The camera pans to Johnny Sexton as Carty’s touchline conversion veers right.


Japan responded well after conceding that score and yielded a penalty as CJ Stander was called offside.

This time Tamura is on the money.

PENALTY! Japan 3 Ireland 5 (Tamura ’16)


The first scrum of the game comes 18 minutes in and Ireland make a statement after all the midweek chat about the legality of Cian Healy’s shove.

They win the hit and keep on driving for the penalty.


Carty kicks for the corner and Ireland attack off the line-out, the 10 spins wide to Stockdale, but there’s enough cover to close out the danger for now.


We’re with the TMO after Rob Kearney appeared to ground the ball for a try…


Ireland’s pressure forced the penalty and Carty used the advantage to its fullest, dinking over the top and getting his own hand to the ball to bat it back into the path of Kearney.

The fullback went low at the line and scored.

The conversion is good too.

Japan 3 Ireland 12

Carty has this Ireland attack absolutely humming. Another kick cross-kick and Earls is let loose from deep.

This World Cup is starting to feel like a different animal for Ireland.


And back come Japan!

After Ringrose tries to choke up a move, they get the ball away and Ireland look in trouble as Matsushima gets a foot-race with Rory Best.

Fortunately, Josh van der Flier hares in from nowhere and gets to the bouncing ball first.


There’s a huge blow for Japan as Amanaki Mafi is forced off injured, but he is replaced by the great Michael Leitch.

Their loss is very quickly eased as Best over-throws a line-out and the Blossoms flow forward into the Ireland 22.


As Japan try to maintain a frenetic pace, it’s Conor Murray who kills the ball and concedes the penalty in front of the post.

It’s a one-score game again.

PENALTY: Japan 6 Ireland 12 (Tamura ’33)


Oof! Carty is squarely hit and driven backwards to the turf. Thompson gets a hand in to rip and force the turnover.


Angus Gardner standing over Cian Healy and when the number 1 pops up the writing is on the wall for Ireland.

Japan win the scrum penalty just outside their 22, and the crowd goes wild.

This is a terrific game.

Flag 40Mins

Ireland’s defence looks well set for six phases, but Japan are quite happy playing the more unstructured game as the set wears on.

JVDF is, harshly, pinged for not rolling away and after a dinked effort over the top, we go back for the penalty.

PENALTY! Japan 9 Ireland 12 (Tamura ’38)

Game well and truly on.


There goes the gong. Ireland will be glad to get to the sheds.

A scrum on halfway is kept solid by Japan and they mount one last attack.


Eight phases in and Japan are still finding little gaps and eking their way forward.

Ireland look to be the side first falling off the pace of this game.

13 phases and on Japan go. They’re not afraid to throw the ball around, but Horie brings the set to an early end by trying a grubber to the corner.

The touchline comes first to Ireland’s great relief.

HALF-TIME: Japan 9 Ireland 12


Now, all refreshed and recharged for the second half. Can Ireland force their way back on top?

So far, Japan have been able to continue in the ascendancy. Bringing the game to Ireland.

Stockdale appears to cut out a pass as they Blossoms look to go wide. Garner says it’s not a knock on and Ireland can ease the pressure.

Conor Murray takes a clearance kick from Japan on the full and runs back to be cemented in the tackle and Japan are first to react when the ball comes out again.


Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy are called ashore.

The Wexford man looked in a lot of pain a moment ago and it seemed he was holding his eye.

Hopefully whatever troubled him was not serious.

Killer and Porter are in the game to add a little fresh heft for Ireland.


Kilcoyne certainly made his impact instantaneous with a shuddering hit on Horie.

A scrum is forced off a kick chase and Ireland are happy to have the game slowed down for a moment.


And there’s the set-piece strength. The new props force a scrum penalty.

Carty kicks for the corner to give Ireland a good attacking position.


Stolen by Japan!

Himeno knocks Best’s line-out back to the hosts. They clear, but it’s a poor kick and Earls can run it back.

Ireland look to Kilcoyne to make harder yards, but he’s hit with a solid wall of three tacklers.


A kick in behind then for Earls to chase, but Matsushima shows absolutely brilliant feet to escape the Limerick man and advance all the way from his own try-line to the 22 before hacking clear.


Japan’s energy staying high while Ireland are caught between trying to match it and slow the pace down.

The world number 2 side are pinged for not rolling away and the Blossoms have a penalty on the 10.


A second miss for Tamura as he pulls the 40 metre shot left of the posts.

A let-off for Ireland and they get more good news as Tadhg Furlong returns – he must have been off for a HIA. Peter O’Mahony is brought off after he was the subject of a referee’s warning after that last penalty.

Rhys Ruddock is in the game.


Ireland are rattled under this pressure – and, no doubt, the heat.

CJ picks off the back of a scrum in his own 22 and pops it to Farrell. The Munster team-mates collide as Farrell cuts back and it’s an inviting scrum for Japan.


Unbelievable scenes in Shizuoka as Ireland fall behind after an onslaught from the Blossoms. Leitch is among the big carries in tight before they go wide.

And the star wing, injured and a doubt before the start of the tournament, is on just in time to finish in the left corner.

And for good measure Tamura has his kicking boots on nice and tight.

Japan 16 Ireland 12


Big old Luke Thompson goes off to a rousing reception. The 38-year-old has a slow walk to the sideline but as play resumes Ireland will mount a slow patient attack with the big men given big workloads.


And the slow march is too slow. Joey Carbery attempts to jink and add some pace, but Japan get in over the ball when James Ryan carries towards the posts and the penalty comes from Gardner.

15 minutes to go. Can Ireland turn the screw. Can they find the screwdriver?


Leitch leading the Japan defensive effort now, comes up with a thumping hit on JVDF.

Rob Kearney is getting some attention from the medic after a swinging arm caught him as he took a loose pass forward.

And after a knock-on he is indeed sent for a HIA and Luke McGrath is sent on to play on the wing! 


Japan mount another attack and Ireland are not exactly at their most composed with a backline of Stockdale, Earls, Larmour, Ringrose, McGrath, Carty and Murray.

Murray strays offside to give Tamura a free pot-shot of a drop-goal.

It’s a bad one, but he’ll get another go off the tee.


Now then. Where’s your fuckin pride, as Ciaran Fitzgerald once said. Ireland will have to dig deep for every quality to salvage a result from these final six minutes.


Ireland attack of a line-out in midfield. Murray to Stander, crashed up. Carbery and Earls link nicely and Stockdale raids the left.

Japan have their bases nicely covered and Ireland fold back across towards the right. The big man are back in the picture


INTERCEPT. Larmour’s pass is picked off by Fukuoka.

He looks set to go the length, but that man Keith Earls reels him in and makes the tackle.

The ball is choked up thank to the Limerick  man and it’s a Japanese scrum five metres in front of the Irish posts.


Japan can’t quite turn the knife and deny Ireland a losing bonus.

The gong goes and Ireland kick out, happy to get even a losing bonus.

FULL-TIME: Japan 19 Ireland 12

Ireland came to Japan as the world’s number one team.

They took on the hosts and were thoroughly out-played by a side who relish the chance to play high-tempo attacking rugby.

Well, that’s it from me folks. 

Your big game report is here and we’ll have plenty of reaction from Shizuoka as we take on the autopsy of where this match went wrong for Ireland.

Japan are now in the driving seat to top Pool A. Ireland could be heading for the All Blacks in the knockout stage yet.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell


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