Billy Stickland/INPHO The Ireland 23 to face Japan tomorrow.
# production line
Ireland's XV includes 12 players who came through the Leinster academy
The three other starters are natives of New Zealand.

ONE OF THE most noticeable aspects of the Ireland team named by Andy Farrell yesterday was that 12 of the 15 players came through the Leinster academy system.

The other three players are natives of New Zealand who qualified for Ireland via the residency rule.

Of course, Bundee Aki is a proud Connacht man and there is no doubt that Tadhg Beirne and Andrew Conway represent Munster with great pride.

But the level of Leinster influence on this Ireland team is very clear. 

Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell stressed today that the national team coaches never even consider players’ provinces when they’re selecting, but he did say that this Ireland selection will serve as a motivation for Munster, Ulster, and Connacht and their production lines.

“For sure, I’d say everyone province wants to have more Irish players in their squad,” said O’Connell.

“I remember when I first came into the Munster team under Declan Kidney, we had a big goals sheet and one of the top goals was more Munster players playing for a winning Ireland.

“I’m sure it is a concern for the provinces. It makes them produce players. It makes them go and work hard on their domestic game structures, their school structures, it makes them go work hard on their academy structures to keep producing players.

“But in my time travelling around the provinces, I just see incredible work being done. I see the level of coaching now in the provinces, I think it’s fantastic, and then the level of coaching underneath that in some of the academies is fantastic as well.

“From our point of view, I only found out about it yesterday when I read about it so it’s not something we ever pay attention to or discuss or worry about. We just try to pick what we think is right on the day.”

In this sense, O’Connell echoed Farrell’s words yesterday.

paul-oconnell Billy Stickland / INPHO O'Connell at Ireland's captain's run. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“I’ve been on record before saying I would never do the squad a disservice by looking at who I’m picking in terms of who they play for,” said Farrell.

“It’s certainly not fair to the team or the squad and 100% not fair to an individual. We pick the team on merit, on what is right, and where the squad is at that point in time.”

It may just be a point in time, with greater influence from the other three provinces in future Ireland teams but it will be an interesting theme to follow.

More pressing for O’Connell and co. is tomorrow’s clash with Japan in Dublin, where he is expecting a ferocious and entertaining game.

“They’re an excellently coached team,” said O’Connell of the visitors. “At the World Cup, they had brilliant players but they were brilliantly coached as well.

“They’re coached the right way. They’re not over-coached to the point where they have a little bit of paralysis. They still have this attitude to go and play. They seem to be backed to chase the unpredictable, chase offloads, take chances.

“Then they have incredible structure as well. We would have watched a good bit of the Highlanders in Super Rugby where Tony Brown was coaching. You were getting a lot of these highly-scripted plays and they’re brilliant to watch as well.

“Japan have a brilliant balance that way. James Moore is really experienced now as a lineout caller so they get brilliant ball off the lineout. They scored a maul try against us during the summer and a big part of Australia getting a result against them was how they stopped that part of their game.

“Sometimes they’re really scripted but they seem to have a real license to offload and go play, then they can pick teams off with maul tries. We have a bad memory of a scrum at the World Cup in the back of our minds. They have great balance, excellent coaching and they work very, very hard.

“That’s something we pride ourselves on so when we see it in another team, we recognise it. They work incredibly hard to attack and defend well, so the boys are under no illusions about how hard it’s going to be.”

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella, and Gavan Casey look ahead to Ireland-Japan with the help of Japanese rugby expert Rich Freeman, while the lads also assess ‘Tier Two’ rugby two years out from the World Cup:

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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