Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Reaction
50-cap Toner a tower of strength and more talking points as Ireland win battle with Blossoms
It was far from the free-running rugby of the opening two Tests, but Ireland’s willingness to work was exemplified by their totemic lock.

IRELAND WRAPPED UP their summer tour with a third win, a second over Japan, as they prevailed 13 – 35 over the hosts in Tokyo. Here’s the match report from the Ajinomoto and below are some post-match thoughts on Ireland’s 12th and final match of the season.

Half century, no half measures

Devin Toner was a colossus in Tokyo this morning. In a game that was far removed from the free-running spectacles of recent weeks, Ireland had to dig deep, and they all did so around big Dev.

Uwe Helu and Takayuki Watanabe with Devin Toner Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The Moynalvey monster carried to enormous effect, using his high hands to get effective passes away and,  of course, he was also a constant menace to the Japanese line-out, frustrating their chances to build an attacking base from the sideline. When he wasn’t torturing them in the air, he was using those long levers to work to slow down ruck ball.

High-scoring, but hard-fought

Seven tries shared, but unlike Ireland’s first two Tests of this tour, this was not a game for back threes to run wild. Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale had to come in-field and get their leg drive going, while a first-half block-down was a good illustration of how Keith Earls was showing his flanker’s work ethic.

The Brave Blossoms’ attempts at suffocating Ireland – successful in the second half – meant it was country for old men in the Ajinomoto Stadium with Toner in flying form, Cian Healy looking his bullish best and relative old-timers Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier ploughing in to rucks.

Garry Ringrose celebrates scoring the first try of the game with Luke Marshall and Jacob Stockdale Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO


Call it youthful exuberance, call it competition for places, but playing international rugby at the tail end of the season is not always associated with a boundless hunger for work.

The energy, and joyful attack, in this Ireland side has been a big feature of the tour since they took the field in New Jersey. Jamie Joseph’s defensive setup attempted to stump that approach, but Ireland were more than willing to work for the scraps.

Paddy Jackson (who kicked five conversions from five) unleashed a big hit on Akihito Yamada, Healy delivered an echo of the iconic Stephen Ferris drive of Will Genia in 2011 on poor Yutaka Nagare. John Ryan was flinging himself to the turf to secure loose ball and Garry Ringrose reacted quickest to a bouncing midfield ball to pick up an ‘easy’ intercept try. You make your own luck, and this is how.

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More than Japan scouted for World Cup 2019


Japan will improve under the Joseph over the next two years and will be a more polished opponent when they face Ireland in the World Cup pool. However, these two Tests played with a mix of stalwarts, second-stringers and new kids should remove any fear for Joe Schmidt.

Jacob Stockdale and Kieran Treadwell Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

On top of the opponent, this has been a valuable month for Schmidt to impose his structures and expectations on young players like James Ryan, Kieran Treadwell, Andrew Porter and Jacob Stockdale as well as slightly longer in the tooth men like Dan Leavy, Andrew Conway, Niall and Rory Scannell whose versatility (in the case of Leavy, Conway and Rory Scannell) and stability (in the case of Niall Scannell) will weigh heavy in their favour when it comes to selecting a 31-man squad.

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