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*stretches arms, rubs eyes and yawns like a howling gale”

Oh, jakers, you frightened me!.What are you doing up at this hour?

Ah, yes. The international rugby. We couldn’t sleep for the excitement either.

Peter O’Mahony and Jonathan Sexton may be about to lead the Lions in Rotorua later this morning, but your national team are in Japan for the first of two Tests against the hosts – who just happen to be our pool opponents in the World Cup.

Kick-off isn’t until 6am though, so you’ve still got time to whip me up a hearty breakfast… oh, you’re getting a power nap instead. Yeah, there’s time for that too.

I’ll just flick on Eir Sport 2 and get us all ready for minute-by-minute coverage.

Here’s a reminder of the teams selected by Jamie Joseph and Joe Schmidt for the Test in Shizuoka.

After a heavy week of travel, there’s a very solid and look to Ireland’s line-up with the two uncapped players Rory O’Loughlin and Kieran Treadwell on the bench surrounded by a wealth of provincial-level experience. Here’s a little more on the thinking behind this XV.


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


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

Rhys Ruddock is leading his team down the Ecopa Stadium tunnel, he captains Ireland for the second time today, after last week’s big win over the US.

As Ireland’s Call rattles out from the speakers, it’s a sunny 27 degrees in Shizuoka. That delicate Irish skin is well-coated in sunscreen.

KICK-OFF: Here we go then, referee is Marius van der Westhuizen and he signals for Yu Tamura to get us under way.

Zebo takes it comfortably outside his 22, Jackson takes the pass deep in the 22 and clears to touch, but seems to have gotten away with it.


McGrath box kicks and Keith Earls’ chase is good. tana sends up a short contestable to cause Zebo to scramble and knock-on rather than allow a Brave Blossom to storm through.


Jack Conan picks up where he left off in the USA, and in a very real sense as he forces a tremendous turnover deep in his own half and paves the way for Ireland to go wide to Keith Earls who chips and chases.

Flag 6Mins

Five minutes in and this game already has a wonderful open quality to it. Between Dan Leavy’s offload and Rhys Ruddock winding up a long pass Ireland are stretching the hosts and force a penalty which Jackson nails.

PENALTY! Japan 0 Ireland 3 (Jackson ’6)


Oh Dear. Quinn Roux guilty of a poor spill after a fine burst from John Ryan.

Tamura kicks in behind Andrew Conway who slides and is very lucky to gain control after the ball bounced up and over him as he slid to collect.


Mafi is down receiving treatment here. He’s a big important unit though and he’ll not be taken from the field until it’s absolutely necessary.


Ireland picked a team for set-piece and the maul off set-piece shows some excellent promise with close to 20 metres gained on the roll… but the turnover comes for the hosts. Scrum.


Absolutely brilliant scrum effort from John Ryan and Cian Healy. They barge the Blossoms off the ball and Ireland pick up possession through Jack Conan. The big number eight gallops off down the wing, unleashes a big hand-off and feeds Keith Earls an easy finish.

Jackson nails the conversion.

Japan 0 Ireland 10


PENALTY! Japan 3 Ireland 10 (Tamura ’14)

The visitors whistles on the restart and Tamura has a straightforward kick to open his account for the day.


Japan storm back onto the attack, Tamura grubbers into the corner, but Paddy Jackson brilliantly claims the bouncing ball over his head and takes a big hit before the cavalry comes to win a penalty.


Terrific break from Keith Earls, busting the line in midfield and feigning a pass.

Rory Scannell and Cian Healy take the ball on before tighthead Heiichiro Ito earns a YELLOW CARD.

Flag 26Mins

TRY! Japan 3 Ireland 17 (Dan Leavy ’25 )

Clinical reaction to the sin-bin by Ireland. Jackson kicks to the corner and is kicking a conversion less than a minute later as Dan Leavy powers onto slick line-out ball and barges over the try-line.


TRY! Japan 3 Ireland 22 ( Leavy ‘ 28)


Ah here. It’s almost not fair playing Keith Earls on this tour. He’s just unplayable for opponents last weekend and this. Off another line-out, Earls cuts onto McGrath’s pass and breaks the line. He keeps his hands nice and free when the tackle comes so that he can offer Dan Leavy his second international try and his second in five minutes here.

Japan 3 Ireland 24

Flag 32Mins

TRY! Japan 3 Ireland 31 (Jack Conan ’32)

A barnstorming few minutes for Ireland and Leavy and Earls are again get hands on the ball to bypass defenders and help Conan march  into the corner.

Jackson slots a brilliant touchline conversion to keep his ratio at 100% and push Ireland to a full four-try lead.


As Jackson pushes a lovely left-footed touch-finder up the line, big Heiichiro Ito is back on the field.

His team have crumbled without him.

Terrific hit from Andrew Conway as 15-man Japan mount a prolonged attack in the hope of making their way back into this game before half-time.

After 14 phases, though they knock on and AWAY GOES DEVIN TONER!

The big man horses out of his 22, into the opposition half before finding Garry Ringrose. The support runners appear to have over-shot a little and the centre’s pass is whipped back inside to no one particular. It unravels a bit further from there before Jackson taps the ball out to bring about the interval.

HALF-TIME: Japan 3 Ireland 31

Here comes the second half then. Hopefully, if the margin can be maintained, we’ll see two more debutants from the bench with Rory O’Loughlin and Kieran Treadwell to come after excellent first seasons with Ulster and Leinster.


TRY! Japan 3 Ireland 38 (Conan ’45)

The hosts spill as they look for width in their own half. Cian Healy gets a boot on the ball to disrupt further before Conan gets two big hands on the loose ball and cruises in for his second try.


We only spotted in the run-up of the at try that Tiernan O’Halloran is in the game in place of Simon Zebo. We’ll update you on the Corkman as soon as we hear.

O’Halloran meanwhile takes a fine high ball in his 22.

Dangerous attack from Japan with Lafaele storming towards the line in the corner before Conway takes him down with a pretty high tackle.

Only a penalty comes after the advantage however.

Ireland are having to dig deep after, from another penalty after the line-out, Tanaka quick-taps and Conway hits Tamaru nice and square… and this the South African ref wanTs to TMO.


Ireland’s own JP Doyle giving lots and lots of advice on this TMO and it ends with a YELLOW CARD for Andrew Conway.

The Munster wing seems to be being punished for an offence other than was under adjudication there. Though, Van Der Westhuizen also covered himself by adding persistent team infringing into the mix. But there was no warning for that.


Japan are over the line through Uwe Helu, but centre Will Tupou ran a big blocking run into Rhys Ruddock and John Ryan.

Penalty goes Ireland’s way and they can escape this Brave Blossoms onslaught after a fine defensive shift.


Jack O’Donoghue and James Tracy are on in place of Niall Scannell and Dan Leavy


TRY! Japan 10 Ireland 38 ( Noguchi ’60)

Japan show their attacking teeth takes them within metres of the line in the left corner. They have to go wide again from there, but Ireland are well stocked in D, so it takes a terrific step from the young fullback Noguchi to cut inside Jackson and Scannel to get over the line.


Rory O’Loughlin and Kieran Treadwell are on for their Test debuts.

The Leinster centre replaces Paddy Jackson, meaning Rory Scannell will again finish this game out at out-half.

TRY! Japan 10 Ireland 45 (Ringrose ’65)


The energy off the bench is paying dividends already with Kieran Treadwell notably making a big carry in the lead up to this try. Tiernan O’Halloran cut out the last defenders with a terrific skip pass out to the right wing were Ringrose was waiting.

I forgot to mention, Rory Scannell slotted that conversion from the right side.

Lots of space opening up now for any Irish athlete that fancies a score. Conway is first through the line and Kilcoyne trucks it up soon after.

It’s that other omii-present Munster man who gets the score though. You’ve guessed it!

TRY! Japan 10 Ireland 50 (Keith Earls ’74)

It’s a record, according to the union.

TRY!  Japan 15 Ireland 50 (Fukuoka ’78)

The shape is well and truly lost from this game as Japan’s left wing Fukuoka scampers in to the corner and adds another few ticks to the missed tackle count.

Good to have work-ons going into week three of a tour.

TRY! Japan 22 Ireland 50 (Nagare ’79)

Superb late flourish from Japan as they show off all that lovely Jamie Josephe catch-pass work to set Nagare away down the left.

Matsuda converts before the buzzer.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell