Japan v Ireland Rugby match at Ajinomoto Stadium
Saturday, June 24th
Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo
14:40 local (05:40 GMT)
Ireland will be want to wrap up their June Test campaign with a 3rd win when they face Japan on Saturday.
With wins over USA & the Brave Blossoms already in the bank, Joe Schmidt’s men now face Japan again, who will want to make a comeback after last week’s 50-22 result in Shizuoka.
They were simply a class apart in that fixture as the speed they played at had Japan in trouble.
Keith Earls, Jack Conan & Dan Leavy all stood out with Earls in particular a joy to watch as he scored 2 & set up a couple of tries while making 116 metres with ball in h&. This week he switches wings to the right as Schmidt freshens up his squad for the tour finale.
6 personnel & 2 positional tweaks are made by Ireland as starting debuts are given to lock Kieran Treadwell & hooker James Tracy. It’s still an extremely potent line-up though as Josh van der Flier comes in for Leavy while they lose nothing with Kieran Marmion replacing Luke McGrath at scrum-half.
Other tweaks include Luke Marshall starting at twelve while Simon Zebo drops out, with Andrew Conway at fifteen.
Ireland is heavy favorites to be winners & it is hard to disagree with the bookmakers there as they look like a side full of confidence under boss Schmidt. Japan, in contrast continues to struggle to live up to that Rugby World Cup pool form of 2015.
These 2 sides have been drawn in the same pool at the 2019 showpiece so one feels the Brave Blossoms need to show a great deal more in terms of defensive solidity this week to send a message to the Irish. Simply it was too easy last week for Ireland to score 7 tries.
Joseph will have been working hard on that defense in training & it’s clear he was unhappy with their performance as he wielded the axe for this rematch.
Eight alterations have been made in total & he even chooses to h& the captaincy to Michael Leitch to lift the squad.
It’s hard to see any miracles though in Shizouka this weekend as Ireland should again be too strong & run out comfortable winners, which would cap a fine tour for Schmidt & his young players who, to a man, have put their h& up for further international caps in the future.
Players to watch
The Brave Blossoms will have a new midfield partnership this week as Yu Tamura & Kotaro Matsushima come in for William Tupou & Timothy Lafaele.
Tamura will give them a creative & kicking option at 12 but will need to keep the likes of Luke Marshall & Garry Ringrose from busting through what was a leaky defensive line last week. Amanaki Mafi meanwhile must give his side front foot ball.
Keith Earls was outstanding last week in Shizuoka & he’ll be hoping to continue that form against the same opposition. His ability to find a gap, however small, & pierce it makes him such a dangerous player in attack. He combined brilliantly with flanker Dan Leavy & number eight Jack Conan & the latter will also be keen to carry on his scoring streak with more crossings at Ajinomoto Stadium.
From 1995-2017, Ireland has won with comfortable numbers.
The venues they played are Shizuoka, Tokyo, Osaka, Dublin, Bloemfontein
Another win for the visitors who have a real swagger about them at the moment after recent triumphs. Ireland by 25 points.
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