Friday 15 December 2017

'We know it’s going to be horrible' - Rhys Ruddock highlights challenges facing Joe Schmidt's men in Japan

Rhys Ruddock of Ireland during an Ireland rugby squad training session in Tokyo
Rhys Ruddock of Ireland during an Ireland rugby squad training session in Tokyo

Brendan Fanning in Japan

It’s not often you hear a captain alluding to the following day’s Test as “a horrible experience,” but in fairness to Rhys Ruddock that’s exactly how he called what’s coming tomorrow in Shizuoka’s Ekopa Stadium.

It has nothing to do with the hospitality of his hosts, which has been first class, rather the sweltering heat that will attend tomorrow’s get-together in front of what’s hoped to be a crowd of circa 30,000.

It was 30 degrees as the Ireland side trained at the venue, without incident, wrapping up at 11.30am. That had gone up a few notches by the time the match time of 2pm arrived. Even if tomorrow is due to be a little cooler, it’s still a daunting prospect. 

“I’d imagine it’s going to be a serious challenge,” Ruddock said. “It’ll make what is already a hugely difficult test for us as a group even harder. But all week we have been mentally preparing. We know it’s going to be horrible and it’s going to be challenging. So, to have that in your head and to train and prepare for it has been big for us.”

When you factor in the jump up in quality from what the Eagles offered in New Jersey it puts the game in perspective. Japan’s back row especially will he hoping to lead the charge.

“Yeah definitely – we had a really good look at them,” he said. “Obviously we’d have known a lot about Leitch and Mafi from over the years playing for Japan, and the performances they’ve had along with their performances in Super rugby. But the seven as well – Tokunaga – he’s a player we would have seen a little less of until this tour, and he’s really impressed us.

I think for us as a back row contending with him could be our biggest challenge. He’s dynamic and he’s really good around the breakdown and he’s quick. He could pose a lot of problems for us. We’ve done our homework but dealing with it is another thing, so hopefully we can prove we’re up to the challenge.”

The 2pm kick off seems like madness for a touring team to accept, but the flip side is that the travel schedule has meant the players are running out of energy by early evening. Come 8pm it’s like falling off the edge of a cliff, and probably it will be next week by the time the players are fully restored to normal sleep and energy patterns. The heat won’t be going away anytime soon though.

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