'June will be very tough for us, today's draw will spark a real interest (in Japan)' -- Joe Schmidt

The Ireland head coach called the pool draw featuring Scotland and Japan ‘a mixed bag’.

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt praised the quick progression of Japanese rugby after his side were drawn alongside the Brave Blossoms and Scotland in Kyoto today.

Though Ireland lost to Scotland on the opening day of the Six Nations this year and they have appointed the successful Gregor Townsend as new head coach, today’s World Cup pool draw was close to a best case scenario for Ireland.

Joe Schmidt Source: Getty/Dave Rogers/World Rugby Pool Images/INPHO

However, Schmidt is wary of the world’s 11th ranked side under ex-Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph.

“I think the Japanese national team have really progressed in a short term, and even going back probably two or three years,” the Kiwi said in Kyoto.

“I think June is going to be very tough for us. This draw today will spark a real interest because people will want an entree of what will be a main meal in two-and-a-bit years’ time.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Jamie Joseph – he’s a scary man! I think he’ll bring a real energy to the group. I know some of his coaching staff too. Together, they will be very, very effective in progressing the team further.”

After going through some of the permutations for which countries might make up the ‘Europe 1′ and ‘Playoff Qualifier’ spots (most likely Romania and Tonga), Schmidt added:

We lost to Scotland recently, so it’s a mixed bag, but I think it’s incredibly exciting to draw the host nation. I think the crowd, the enthusiasm and the interest in that game is going to be huge.”

The interest in Ireland’s impending summer tour will be inescapable too.

With Japan hosting Schmidt’s side on 17 and 24 June the dynamic of the tour has entirely changed thanks to this morning’s draw.

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Even though 11 men will be on Lions duty (and only four of those are older than 30), most of the touring party in the US and Japan next month will be aiming to make themselves core components of Schmidt’s plans in good time for 2019.

Japan meanwhile, will be keen to lay down some important markers as hosts, perhaps none bigger than recording their first win over Ireland having never come within 16 points of victory in their five meetings since 1991.

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Sean Farrell

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