Andy Farrell has intimated that he was sounded out about James Ryan availability as a replacement for the stricken Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones last weekend and informed Warren Gatland that the abductor injury he picked up in training last week effectively ruled him out of consideration.
Whereupon, Ryan's surprisingly swift recovery has enabled him to lead Ireland out against Japan at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 1pm, live on RTE).
Asked if Gatland had contacted him regarding Ryan’s availability, Farrell said: “Well, myself and Warren have communicated quite a lot and I know that Warren really rates James but the injury was a little bit of a setback towards the end of last week and we didn’t quite know where he was up to with that and then the medics took over.
“I think James in the last day or so in particular has surprised everyone with the speed of his recovery.”
Asked again if Gatland had been in touch with him directly, the Irish head coach responded: “Well, I informed him that there was something going on and the medics took over from there.”
Therefore, if Ryan was fully fit would he have been called up by Gatland?
“I don’t know whether that would have been the case or not but there’s obviously conversations that have to happen before decisions like that are made.”
In any event, Farrell enthusiastically welcomed Ryan’s fitness to lead the Irish team.
“I’m delighted for James that he’s able to captain the side. It’s something that he’s unbelievably passionate about, he’s had two goes at it and he’s learned from both experiences.
“We’ve seen him lead the side very well over the last 10 days so we’re delighted that our captain has made great progress and that he’s able to join us. And hopefully that will stand to us down the years as well as far as the captaincy position is concerned.”
In the absence of ten of the staring XV from the 32-18 win over England last March and 13 of that match-day 23, whether through Lions' call-ups, injuries, front-liners being rested from these two summer games or, retirement in the case of CJ Stander, it's a measure of the threat posed by Japan that Farrell has named his strongest possible team.
“We need to be respectful to ourselves,” said Farrell. “This is a proper Test match first and foremost. We’re playing against a top-class side in Japan, we all know that from the last time we played them.
Noting that Japan have had a six-week build-up and two games against the Sunwolves and the British & Irish Lions, compared to Ireland’s 12 days in camp, Farrell said: “They’re a formidable side that’s very experienced and we obviously need to respect them but we need to respect ourselves first and foremost.
“You look at the Japanese side, I thought it was the best prepared team in the World Cup bar none and the performances showed that. I believe they had an unbelievably long stint together before that and the players that they picked to come over on this tour, a lot of them were in that squad.
“So albeit that they’ve not played for a good stretch before these last two games, the personnel have been together for quite some time and a six-week period allows them to be very well drilled.”
Returning to Lions' matters, Farrell was evidently thrilled for Conor Murray that Gatland made him tour captain after Jones was ruled out.
“He attracts people around him, not because he’s loud and boisterous, just because he’s a good bloke and the experience that he’s got from the last few tours and the experience of the ups and downs that he’s had throughout his career will stand him in great stead. I’m sure he’ll do a fine job and we’re all delighted for him here.
“He’s been questioned quite a bit over the last couple of years regarding form etc . . . but he is class and he always rises to the top and he’s always come through the ups and downs and that’s what happens in an illustrious career.
"That's why top players are always coming up trumps in the end and everyone was talking about whether he'd get selected for Ireland and Craig Casey was pushing him at Munster, and the pressure Conor just absorbs brings the best out of him and all of a sudden now he's the main man for the Lions, and that just shows the calibre of the guy."
Ireland team v Japan: Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD); Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary's College), Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan); Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf), Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster); Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians), Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne), Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers), Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians), James Ryan (Leinster/UCD, capt), Peter O'Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution), Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD), Caelan Doris (Leinster/UCD). Replacements: Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch), Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD), John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution), Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University), Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster), Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon), Billy Burns (Ulster), Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution).
Japan: Kotaro Matsushima; Semisi Masirewa, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita, Yu Tamura, Naoto Saito; Keita Inagaki, Atsushi Sakate, Jiwon Koo, Wimpie van der Walt, James Moore, Michael Leitch (captain), Lappies Labuschagné, Kazuki Himeno. Replacements: Kosuke Horikoshi, Craig Millar, Asaeli Ai Valu, Jack Cornelson, Tevita Tatafu, Kaito Shigeno, Rikiya Matsuda, Shane Gates.