Rugby World Cup: Japan v Ireland Preview5 min read
Hosts off to winning start
Japan are up and running after the hosts won their opening World Cup game against Russia. The Brave Blossoms made a sluggish start, as they conceded the opening try, but recovered to clinch a comfortable 30-10 victory in Tokyo.
The star of the show was Kotaro Matsushima as the Japan wing scored a hat-trick in their four-try victory. It will obviously get significantly tougher for the hosts but the woeful performance of pool rivals Scotland will have only increased their belief they can qualify for the knockout stages for the first time.
Their chances of reaching the last-eight will probably not be determined by this game though, with the matches against Scotland and Samoa likely to decide their fate.
Head coach Jamie Joseph has surprisingly left out captain Michael Leitch with Amanaki Mafi promoted to the front row. Pieter Labuschagne takes over the captaincy for this match but Leitch will surely have an impact from off the bench.
Ireland impress against Scotland
Ireland have never managed to get past the quarter-final stage of the World Cup and Joe Schmidt, who is leaving after their exit, is tasked with taking the team to their best ever run in the competition.
His team have misfired for much of this year but their opening win against Scotland suggests the Irish could be peaking at the right time.
Scotland were dire but Ireland’s dominant performance deserves recognition during their bonus-point 27-3 win in Yokohama on Sunday.
Ireland are in pole position to top their pool and, after South Africa’s defeat to New Zealand, the likelihood is the Springboks will be their opponents in the quarter-finals.
Schmidt has brought in Jack Carty at fly-half for this weekend’s game with Johnny Sexton missing out due to a slight thigh injury.
Despite strong performances last weekend, Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway make way with Rob Kearney and Keith Earls coming into the back three.
Mastushima can score in defeat
Ireland are overwhelming 1/20 favourites for this match and it would be a huge upset if Japan defeated them.
The Brave Blossoms did stun South Africa in the World Cup four years ago but this Ireland team looks far too solid for this to happen.
The handicap mark is set at 21 points and this looks fair although Japan will believe they can make this a much tighter contest.
Ireland have won every single match against Japan and each of their victories have been by at least 16 points. It underlines there is still a huge gulf between the teams and Ireland should ultimately clinch a comfortable win.
Japan’s attack is undoubtedly stronger than their defence and Matsushima is a significant threat for the underdogs. He is in terrific form currently with nine tries in seven international matches this year. He also scored against Ireland in their last match against them two years ago.
Ireland’s defence will not be as generous as Russia’s but Matsushima can still maintain his scoring streak, by crossing the line, even if as expected Ireland win.
Tip: Kotaro Matsushima to score a try