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Joe Schmidt to ring changes for Japan clash as Ireland look to use squad ahead of potential quarter-final

Ireland playing down injuries as coach insists he'll use 'fresh' players against host nation

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Rob Kearney is on course to play against Japan

Rob Kearney is on course to play against Japan

SPORTSFILE

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

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Rob Kearney is on course to play against Japan

Joe Schmidt says he intends to freshen up his team to face Japan on Saturday as the IRFU gave a positive injury bulletin in the wake of Ireland's win over Scotland.

While Robbie Henshaw remains highly unlikely to face the hosts in Shizuoka, a union spokesman said Keith Earls, Joey Carbery and Rob Kearney are scheduled to train this week, while Peter O'Mahony and Bundee Aki are on schedule to come through the concussion protocols in time.

Although he received treatment on his groin during the 27-3 win, the official line on Johnny Sexton is that he suffered a bang to the thigh and will be fine, while Tadhg Furlong's substitution has been reported as tactical.

Whether they'll be risked against Japan remains to be seen. Schmidt admitted that the comprehensive win has given him some wiggle room, with Rory Best among those who could be rested.

Having moved from Yokohama to Shizuoka yesterday, the team were due to do a light training session last night.

"We always have a plan but never one plan," Schmidt said of the plan to rotate. "We say: 'If this player doesn't play this week, he might play that week' and try and balance things up and a lot of it was dependent on yesterday's result because if we didn't manage to get the better of Scotland, we were under pressure and we were going to have to try to put together the most cohesive side that we probably could.

"We feel that we've got to make sure that we're very, very good on Saturday but at the same time, we do feel that we can bring in a few fresh people and not lose the kind of cohesion we've been trying to build since we got together in mid-to-late June."

Japan forward Uwe Helu said his side will revel in the role of underdog.

"They'll be looking down on us, that's for sure, and we do everything when we get our chance," he said. "Everyone will expect Ireland to win... so all the pressure will be on them."

Irish Independent