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Dublin: 11°C Sunday 9 May 2021


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A very, very VERY good morning to all you rugby fans who just couldn’t sleep with the excitement.

Yes, today’s the day, the end of a build-up that has lasted for-bloody-ever will finally come around after a Haka at around 08.34 and be replaced by rugby match.

Before all that begins though, Ireland will end their season in Tokyo,

Joe Schmidt’s summer tour has gone well so far, hitting the 50 mark against both the US and Japan. Today it’s time for a second crack at our World Cup hosts, and award one more new cap in the process.

Kick-off is coming up at 6.40 on eir Sport 2. So get that kettle on.

Good to have you back for Test 2, Brian Jones. Breakfast is probably not the best description of the Hobnobs I was on the verge of dunking in  my tea.

Here are the teams picked by Joe Schmidt and Jamie Jamie Joseph for today’s Test.


15. Ryuji Noguchi (Tokai University)
14. Akihito Yamada (Panasonic Wild Knights)
13. Kotaro Matsushima (Suntory Sungoliath)
12. Yu Tamura (Canon Eagles)
11. Kenki Fukuoka (Panasonic Wild Knights)
10. Jumpei Ogura (NTT Communications)
9. Yutaka Nagare (Suntory Sungoliath)

1. Shintaro Ishihara (Suntory Sungoliath)
2. Yusuke Niwai (Canon Eagles)
3. Takuma Asahara (Toshiba Brave Lupus)
4. Luke Thompson (Kintetsu Liners)
5. Uwe Helu (Yamaha Jubilo)
6. Michael Leitch (Toshiba Brave Lupus) (Capt)
7. Shuhei Matsuhashi (Ricoh Black Rams)
8. Amanaki Lelei Mafi (NTT Communications)


16. Shota Horie (Panasonic Wild Knights)
17. Keita Inagaki (Panasonic Wild Knights)
18. Takayuki Watanabe (Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers)
19. Kotaro Yatabe (Panasonic Wild Knights)
20. Yoshitaka Tokunaga (Toshiba Brave Lupus)
21. Fumiaki Tanaka (Panasonic Wild Knights)
22. Rikiya Matsuda (Panasonic Wild Knights)
23. Ryohei Yamanaka (Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers)


15. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster)
14. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)
12. Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster)
11. Jacob Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
10. Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster)
9. Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht)

1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
2. James Tracy (UCD/Leinster)
3. John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster)
4. Kieran Treadwell (Ballymena/Ulster)
5. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster)
6. Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (Capt)
7. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)
8. Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)


16. Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster)
17. Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster)
18. Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster)
19. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
20. Sean Reidy (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
21. John Cooney (Connacht)
22. Rory Scannell (Dolphin/Munster)
23. Tiernan O’Halloran (Buccaneers/Connacht)

The teams are out in the Ajinomoto Stadium, Devin Toner just a few giant steps ahead of the rest of the squad as the Meath man wins his 50th Test cap.

Alright then, the anthems are out of the way and we’re ready for Ireland’s 12 and final international of the season.

I’m predicting a not-quite-as-free-scoring day for Ireland, maybe less than 50 today. Can see Japan causing problems as they did in the second half, but not enough for a home win.


After Ireland exit, Japan think they’re onto the front foot when Stockdale’s kick falcons off an opponents’ head. Ref whistles it dead for a scrum though.


A very helpful hand up as Ringrose gets a chance to stretch his legs. Mafi tried to force a long pass to his backs, it fell short, bounced and Ringrose was quickest to the bounce and accelerated from the halfway line to the posts.

Jackson dots over the extra 2.

Luke Marshall is intercepted, but there’s an advantage waiting for Ireland and they will play off a scrum. The energy levels are impressively high and Ireland look a team ready to start a campaign rather than finish it.

The attack comes to nothing this time, the Brave Blossoms D holds firm for that set.


TRY! Japan 0 Ireland 14 (Van der Flier ’8 )

That is a very satisfying score for Ireland. Japan’s defence was looking solid for upwards of 12 phases, but Ireland showed an ability to think on their feet and look for a route around the wall rather than continually go through it. After a good Conway leg drive in the middle, Jackson ripped a pass wide and Luke Marshall’s hands gave JVDF space.

The Wicklow man had plenty to do before dotting down his first Test try, but he kept his legs pumping through contact to get the ball down.


PENALTY! Japan 3 Ireland 14 (Ogura ’14)


TRY! Japan 3 Ireland 21 (Marmion ’18)

An excellent Devin Toner rip wins possession for Ireland in midfield. The initial attack is thwarted, but the hosts can’t cope with Jack Conan. His second carry in the set sees him break a tackle, get up to make yards after a second tackle and suddenly Ireland were within casual spitting distance of the line.


TRY! Japan 8 Ireland 21 (Matsushima ’24)

It looked like Paddy Jackson was close to stealing the ball from the oversized arms of Helu there, but instead he had to backpedal with the big lock. Japan held on and moved quickly left to feed Matsushima the finish.

Ogura misses the conversion from the right touchline.

Flag 31Mins

As Ireland lay siege again, they go to scrummage a penalty  on the 5 metre line. Jackson has limped in from the touchline and was holding his ankle before this set of phases.

TRY! Japan 8 Ireland 28 (Ruddock ’31)

Oh captain my captain!

Conan erases the 5 metre gap from scrum to try-line. Dev Toner picks, pops to Ruddock who forces his way over the line.

Jackson’s left ankle is strong enough to hold his weight as he kicks the easy conversion. He would be loathe to come off here.

Luke Marshall has followed JVDF’s lead in shedding his scrum cap. Far too hot for constricting headwear.


Tracy is robbed off the ball in an Irish maul and Japan get a chance to show off their expansive attack after a sensational offload from Yamada. Ireland scramble well though and fan wide when the ball moves right, imposing enough pressure to force a knock on.

That should do us for the half


Excellent start to the half from the hosts as Ireland struggle out of the traps.

We’re with the TMO for a check on a Matsuhashi touchdown…


Much to Jamie Joseph’s annoyance, TMO calls a (harsh enough) knock on for Nagare. they had penalty advantage, but fluff the lines at line-out and Ireland escape.


James Tracy now has a line-out stolen as Leitch rises high to steal from Devin Toner. Energy levels just starting to flag in the Tokyo heat now perhaps.


Ireland get a kickable penalty and Devin Toner shows some experience to have a good long chat with Paddy Jackson before it’s kicked to the corner. Valuable breathing time that.


Garry Ringrose intent on providing the spark for Ireland, nice grubber chase after a scrappy phase.

Joe Schmidt has seen enough of the second half and has called for the cavalry. Niall Scannell and James Ryan are in.


Matsushima steals away on a turnover and effortlessly steps around a cover tackle. But once Ireland do scramble to force a breakdown, they are pinged for going in from the side and the lines can be cleared again.

Tiernan O’Halloran and Sean Reidy are on the field. Reidy replaces Ruddock with the Connacht fullback taking the place of Conway.

Japan are rightly aggrieved, Luke Marshall stuck a hand out and looked guilty of a clear knock on, but Doyle called it backwards… oh, wait. He’s gone TMOing.


‘A little bit forward’ says JP. No, it was obviously forward I’m afraid and the penalty rightly goes against Marshall for blocking down Tanaka’s pass as he never looked close to getting control of the pill.

Dave Kilcoyne and Andrew Porter are the latest sides of Kobe beef taking their place in the pack.


TRY! Japan 13 Ireland 28 (Yamada ’62)

Stockdale perhaps guilty of shotting a little too far out of his line and Yamada dives for the corner.

Tamura’s conversion is way right.


Andrew Conway (now right wing with Keith Earls withdrawn) comes close to scoring as he gets his hands to a Jackson cross-field kick. He approaches it as it bounces and spirals upwards though and just can’t clamp a solid grasp of it.


Ireland knocking at the door again, but also knocking on. Kieran Marmion looked like he had grounded a long-awaited fifth try for Ireland, but he spilled under pressure from Thompson as he dived over the whitewash.


Japan are back down in the left corner for a line-out, they’ve found it tough to deal with Devin Toner to date, but this time Ireland don’t challenge.

Instead the Meathman uses his long arms to try and poach after the maul collapses.

The slow ball gives Ireland a solid defensive footing and they force a knock on in front of the posts.

TRY! Japan 13 Ireland 33 ( Reidy)


FULL-TIME: Japan 13 Ireland 35

Right at the death, Ireland get their first score of the second half with Ulster flanker Sean Reidy powering over.

Paddy Jackson knocks over a fifth conversion to keep his 100% ratio up.


About the author:

Sean Farrell