To prepare for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 Japan have to take the long and difficult road against tough opposition and this month Ireland came knocking to take on the Brave Blossoms. With a weakened squad, Ireland would still be tough competition for Japan, who hoped to ensure the result would cause a stir in world rugby. Sadly it was not to be for Japan, however they never gave up and came away with a credible performance, losing 13 – 35.
It looked as though Ireland were heading for another big victory over Japan having defeated them 50-22 in the previous weekend’s Test encounter. Garry Ringrose crossed after just three minutes and Josh van der Flier went over eight minutes later, with Paddy Jackson’s two conversions giving the tourists a 14-0 lead. But Japan came back with a penalty from Jumpei Ogura who also converted a try from Kotora Matsushima either side of a Kieran Marmion try for Ireland on 15 minutes which made it 8-21. Captain Rhys Ruddock went over for Ireland’s fourth try, Jackson’s conversion taking the men in green into the interval with a 28-6 lead.
The Brave Blossoms were much better in the second half and were denied a try early on following a knock-on. Ireland found it hard to break them down as easily as they had in the first half. Eventually the first points of the second half arrived, Japan’s Akihito Yamada going over for an unconverted try on 62 minutes to make it 13-28.
The Irish looked tired as the game pittered away, but they summonsed one last effort in the final minute to get their only score of the second half. Replacement Sean Reidy, Jackson converting to leave it 13-35
So in conclusion, Japan were tested and fell short, however over the next 12 months the team will need to use this valuable learning experience and build on it ready for the world cup.