Saturday 21 October 2017

No hint of complacency as Ireland look to finish off depleted Cherry Blossoms

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, left, speaking with Garry Ringrose during squad training at Ichikawa City, in Chiba, Japan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, left, speaking with Garry Ringrose during squad training at Ichikawa City, in Chiba, Japan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

In times past, the last few days of a June tour would take on a different air as the players would be seen downtown getting some shopping in: one eye on the final Test, the other on loose ends to be tied up before taking a break.

It was never a good way to prepare.

It helps now that the speed bump between this Ireland squad and their holidays is not Tier 1 opposition.

And it's no harm either that Japan, with a shallow enough pool in the first place, are struggling with injuries to key players.

Still, on what will be a humid day against a side who have had coach Jamie Joseph in their ear all week about the need to man up, now would not be the time for the tourists to go soft.

"This tour is different," Jack Conan said. "The people involved are so happy to be a part of the squad that there isn't any looking past what we're doing in June. Not your holidays or going back to pre-season, or anything.

"I definitely don't think any complacency has kicked in. There is no, 'Aw, we'll get through this and be on holidays'. It's, 'I'm putting on that green jersey and I don't know when there will be a next time'.''

The message on this trip is that they have been constantly on message. From captain Rhys Ruddock through Devin Toner - winning his 50th cap - to the graduates from last year's U-20 World Cup, it looks the same and sounds the same.

And the inclusion today of John Cooney and Sean Reidy means that everyone goes home with something to show for their efforts.

Garry Ringrose said it will require a big performance to keep the Japanese under the thumb.

"They'll be looking forward to this - if they had the option to play (again) straight after the game they would have taken it because I think they would have been slightly disappointed," he said.

"Looking at the analysis of their players - individually how strong they are and then collectively how strong they can be - I think they'll be coming out all guns blazing."

The issue is how much ammunition they have to unload, for the absence in midfield of Tim Lafaele and Will Tupou is huge.

And having to throw Luke Thompson into the second-row - 18 months after he announced his retirement from Test rugby - illustrates what's left in the cupboard.

The Ireland camp, by comparison, is a land of plenty.

In other circumstances Dan Leavy could have played if asked, but it suits Schmidt to spread the game time around a bit, giving a bit of freshness in the legs and facilitating those with a hunger to impress.

The prospect of a November series back home, with a full complement of players, is a wonderful motivator to look good now.

If this Test follows the same pattern as last week then we are in for another pattern of Ireland running through lineout plays with stunning effect.

It helped that its most productive period was against 14 Japanese when unfairly they lost a man to the bin. So the starting point for the home team is to keep their players on the field.

Unlike Ireland they have to work hard enough in the first place to find them.

Japan - R Noguchi; A Yamada, K Matsushima, Y Tamura, K Fukuoka; J Ogura, Y Nagare; K Inagaki, Y Niwai, T Asahara, L Thompson, U Helu, M Leitch, S Matsuhashi, A Mafi. Reps: S Horie, K Inagaki, T Watanabe, K Yatabe, Y Tokanuga, F Tanaka, R Matsuda, R Yamanaka.

Ireland - A Conway; K Earls, G Ringrose, L Marshall, J Stockdale; P Jackson, K Marmion; C Healy, J Tracy, J Ryan, K Treadwell, D Toner, R Ruddock (capt), J van der Flier,J Conan. Reps: N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, A Porter, J Ryan, S Reidy; J Cooney, R Scannell, T O'Halloran.

Ref - JP Doyle (England)

Japan v Ireland, eir Sport 2, tomorrow, 6.40am

Irish Independent

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