Joe Schmidt has challenged Ireland to reassert their class by hitting back immediately after suffering one of the all-time World Cup shock defeats by Japan.
Hosts Japan set alight the first World Cup in Asia by pummelling Ireland into 19-12 submission in Shizuoka, leaving visiting head coach Schmidt accepting a quick-fire rebuilding job was on the cards.
Ireland can still reach the quarter-finals but may wind up facing back-to-back world champions New Zealand rather than South Africa, should they finish second in Pool A.
Ireland have also lost Jack Conan for the rest of the World Cup, the Leinster flanker laid low by a foot fracture suffered in training.
Back-row forward Jordi Murphy could be called up in Conan’s stead after being withdrawn at the last minute from Ulster’s Pro14 opener against Ospreys on Friday night.
“The strength of the team will be how they respond and rebound from this,” said Schmidt.
“A six-day turnaround was a little bit tough and we’ve got a five-day turnaround now into the Russian game in Kobe on Thursday. So that will be another challenge for us.
#RWC2019— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) September 28, 2019
Bad News for us as @JackConan1 has a fracture in his foot and will return home to Ireland tomorrow. No news yet on a replacement. A huge thank you to Jack for being such a great member of the squad. #TeamOfUs #ShoulderToShoulder pic.twitter.com/SMb1tlSq3S
“Jack Conan, unfortunately Jack Conan has a fracture in his foot. And he will return home to Ireland tomorrow.
“Rob Kearney has got a decent shiner, but he’s feeling okay now.
“He failed his HIA (head injury assessment) as far a I know. If he doesn’t pass HIA two and three he will be a confirmed concussion and he would miss the Russia match.”
Japan shocked the world for the second time in four years, adding this superlative victory over the globe’s number-two ranked side to their 34-32 win over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.
Wing Kenki Fukuoka sealed Japan’s famous win, racing into the left corner and flooring a stunned Ireland side.
Jack Carty had a hand in tries for Garry Ringrose and Rob Kearney as Ireland edged into a 12-3 lead, but that control evaporated.
Japan wound up dominating both the loose and tight exchanges, even taking control in the scrum.
Ireland boss Schmidt in midweek branded referee Angus Gardner’s performance “incredibly frustrating” the last time the Australian had officiated his side, in the 25-7 loss to Wales in March that sealed the 2019 Grand Slam for Warren Gatland’s men.
And in the wake of this loss, Schmidt was again left to lament a referee with whom Ireland cannot seem to get to grips.
Asked about the officiating in Shizuoka, Schmidt said: “We’ll go back and have a look at it. I certainly understand the frustrations of some of our players.
“It’s not too dissimilar from the last time we had this referee. We’ll make our comments to the referee body rather than make any public comment.”