Preview: Japan v Ireland

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 11:32
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JUNE INTERNATIONAL: Japan will be eager put their unbearable 22-50 defeat against Ireland behind them when the sides lock horns for their Second June Test on Saturday in Tokyo.

Head coach Jamie Joseph has made eight changes in hopes of posing a more of a tactical threat for Ireland.

The Brave Blossoms will be captained by flank Michael Leitch in his 50th cap for the country.

Five of the eight changes come in the pack where Shintaro Ishihara, Yusuke Niwai and Takuma Asahara, who have 14 caps between them, make up an all-new front row. Luke Thompson, who played at Blackrock College RFC during the early part of his career, returns for his first appearance since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The Christchurch-born Thompson will make his comeback 18 months on from announcing his international retirement. With the Japan squad hit by injuries, he slots back in alongside Uwe Helu in the second row.

Openside Shuhei Matsuhashi joins Leitch and Amanaki Lelei Mafi in the back row, and there are new combinations both at half-back (flyhalf Jumpei Ogura and scumhalf Yutaka Nagare) and in the centre Kotaro Matsushima pairs with Yu Tamara.

Will Tupou is suspended following a tip tackle on Devin Toner during the Shizuoka match, while fellow centres Timothy Lafaele (pulled groin), Harumichi Tatekawa (calf strain) and Derek Carpenter (leg infection) are absent due to injury.

Akihito Yamada has recovered from a hamstring injury to start on right wing, forming an exciting back-three with Kenki Fukuoka and Ryuji Noguchi - two of the Brave Blossoms' three try scorers last Saturday.

"We are giving an opportunity to some players who made an impact off the bench last week," explained Jamie Joseph.

He said his charges have responded well to last week's defeat and are building for an improved performance and result.

"We were far from winning last week and I am confident there has been a correction around the attitude - and the leaders have been driving that attitude," he added.

"[Michael Leitch] is a good player and leader. Having Shota come on in the second half with his energy will make a difference. To win the match we need to play for 80 minutes and we need our experienced leaders to come on and show composure, discipline and intensity in the later stages,"

With a bulk of Ireland's usual starting line-up in New Zealand on duty with the British and Irish Lions, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has made six changes in personnel for the rematch with the Brave Blossoms, along with two positional switches.
Leinster hooker James Tracy come in for their first starts up front.

The side is captained again by Rhys Ruddock who is joined in an all-Leinster back row by No.8 Jack Conan, who has scored in both tour games so far, and Josh van der Flier who returns at openside flank.

Tracy, Cian Healy, who is set for his 70th cap, and John Ryan, who will make his third start of the tour, will join forces in the front row. That means the Munster tighthead will have played in all eight of Ireland's Tests in 2017, including five appearances as a replacement during the Six Nations.

Players to watch:

For Japan: Captain Michael Leitch's skills could trouble the Irish at the breakdown, while centre Yu Tamura's tactical expertise and breaks could prove troublesome in the middle

For Ireland: Wing Keith Earls always possess a threat for any defense, while Paddy Jackson's composure and calm demeanor could be vital at flyhalf.

Head to head: The battle in the middle will be interesting with Kotaro Matsushima and Yu Tamura going up against Garry Ringrose and Luke Marshall.

Most recent results:

2017: Ireland won 50-22, Shizuoka
2005: Ireland won 47-18, Tokyo
2005: Ireland won 44-12, Osaka
2000: Ireland won 78-9, Dublin
1995: Ireland won 50-28, Bloemfontein
1991: Ireland won 32-16, Dublin
1985: Ireland won 33-15, Tokyo
1985: Ireland won 48-13, Osaka

Predictions: Despite Jamie Joseph's changes and Ireland missing some key players. Don't think the Irish luck will run out, thus Ireland will take is by 20 points or more.


Japan: 15 Ryuji Noguchi, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Kotaro Matsushima, 12 Yu Tamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Jumpei Ogura, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Michael Leitch (captain), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Shintaro Ishihara
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Takayuki Watanabe, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka

Ireland: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock (captain), 5 Devin Toner, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 John Ryan, 2 James Tracy, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 James Ryan, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Tiernan O’Halloran

Date: Saturday, June 25
Venue: Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 14.40 (05.40 GMT; 06.40 Ireland Time)
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Alex Ruiz (France)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)