Ireland reclaim third spot in World Rugby rankings while Scotland climb to fourth after win over Australia
Ireland are set to move back into third place in the World Rugby rankings after a 50-22 win over Japan in Shizuoka.
Ireland ran in seven tries to three at the Ecopa Stadium to cruise to a comfortable 28-point victory against the Brave Blossoms, with Joe Schmidt's side needing to win by at least 15 points, and for Scotland to beat Australia in Sydney, to leapfrog the Wallabies into third.
Scotland's 24-19 win over Australia at ANZ Stadium means that Gregor Townsend's side will now move up to fourth in the world which represents their highest ever ranking.
World Rugby will not update their rankings until Monday but the win over Japan moves Ireland back into the top three after entering this year's Six Nations in fourth place following the November internationals.
For Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt it’s about fine-tuning for the Tokyo Test next Saturday, once he has cleared up injuries to Simon Zebo, Finlay Bealham and Luke McGrath.
Schmidt still has plenty of options available to him, and lots of positive performances to reflect on as the squad take the bullet train out of Hamamatsu tonight.
Under no pressure either at the scrum or out of touch, this was a run through where nearly everything went right until they tired, and the injuries mounted, late in the game. He also gave new caps to Rory O’Loughlin and Kieran Treadwell.
Defensively Ireland put it up to their hosts with a level of aggression well removed from what Romania managed a week ago. And Japan couldn’t live with the sudden lift in standard.
And with ball in hand they kept Japan on the back foot, both through the powerful carrying of their forwards and the quality of their attack when they opened up space.
Again Keith Earls was in flying form. His two tries here - on top of one agaisnt the Eagles - push him one past Denis Hickie's record of eight international tries in a season. For good measure he has three for Munster as well. Since stepping on to the pitch in New Jersey a week ago he has hardly put a foot wrong.
With Paddy Jackson – getting his first run of the trip – having already knocked over a penalty, it left Japan in trouble before they had even got to the first water break. Not great for a crowd of over 30,000.
And it only got worse. They were battling to contain Dan Leavy and two tries from the flanker, getting his first run-on start for Ireland, killed off the game. It helped that Japan had tight head Heiichiro Ito in the bin for killing ruck ball.
By the break Ireland’s lead was 31-3 after Jack Conan crossed for the first of two tries. The second half was only six minutes old when the Leinster number eight got over again after Japan turned the ball over in midfield and the bounce for Conan was kind.
Japan saw a lot more of the ball in that second period and good pressure – during which Andrew Conway was binned for a high tackle, which seemed a tough call – got Helu over the line only to see it cancelled for obstruction.
The referee had no issue on the hour mark with Noguchi, showing lovely footwork, touched down with Matsuda converting, but Ireland pushed on to 45-10 on 66 minutes when Garry Ringrose got over in the corner, followed by Earls a few minutes later.
A brilliantly finished try for Fukuoka – he had done something similar against Romania last week – on 78 minutes was followed just before the final whistle with Ireland down to 14 men after Luke McGrath had gone off, with no replacement used off the bench.