Andy Farrell well aware of test posed by ‘formidable’ Japan

Landmark game for Joey Carbery as outhalf returns for first Test match in nearly two years

 Ireland head coach Andy Farrell looks on during training at the IRFU high-performance centre, Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell looks on during training at the IRFU high-performance centre, Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

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Andy Farrell always feared the threat posed by Japan before they beat Ireland in the World Cup pool stages and in advance of tomorrow’s rematch at the Aviva Stadium (1pm, live on RTÉ2) that feeling hasn’t abated.

This is reflected in Farrell picking what amounts to his strongest and most experienced side given the absence of 10 of the starting XV from the side which beat England in March.

Four of that side are retained, four are promoted from the bench that day, and there are welcome returns for James Ryan, to lead the side, Joey Carbery and Caelan Doris from various ailments, as well as Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Stuart McCloskey and Chris Farrell.

Of the dozen uncapped players in the 37-man squad, only Gavin Coombes is included in the match-day 23. Experimentation can wait until the USA next week.

Japan demand respect, all the more so after shifting Kotaro Matsushima to fullback, thereby making him potentially more influential, and so giving the uncapped 29-year-old, Fijian-born winger Semisi Masirewa his debut, promoting 23-year-old scrumhalf Naoto Saito after his debut off the bench against the Lions and restoring the dynamic Highlanders number eight Kazuki Himeno, Japan’s try scorer last week.

Challenge

“They are a formidable side and I think they would have looked back on the Lions game and saw so many opportunities that they could have took. I’m sure they will rue those chances, so it just shows their quality. They are playing against the best of the best there.

“These are a quality outfit. I think they sit at tenth in this moment in time in the world rankings, not that that means much. But honestly, they can beat anyone on any given day, as they proved at the World Cup with us.

“This is a proper Test match for our boys; different group, a diverse group that has got a challenge on their hands at the weekend.”

Farrell spoke about players such as Hugo Keenan (25 years old and 11 caps) and Doris (23 and seven caps) assuming leadership roles.

“I’m looking for a diverse group, the first time they have been together, as being as unified as possible because over the last 10 days, they have been working extremely hard, certainly mentally, to try and get up to speed to what it takes to be an international player in that short space of time.

“How that transfers on the field is the only thing that matters really. I am sure there will be some ups and downs within the game because they are playing against an outstanding side in Japan, but when the pressure comes on, how do we deal with that pressure and keep performing like we said we are going to do.”

This game marks a notable landmark on Carbery’s route back toward where he was two years ago, a second coming of sorts in what is his first Test since the World Cup quarter-final defeat by New Zealand and a statement of faith in is exceptional ability.

“It’s been a long time now between drinks for him, being in an Ireland squad, and I’ve absolutely no doubt that through those dark days he was thinking about getting back to this stage and to be able to give him a start in this game with a decent side around him is great for his development.”

Carbery has had six starts with Munster since March and Farrell drew encouragement for the last of them being his best, albeit Zebre and Japan are worlds apart.

“The ankle looks good. He looks in fine fettle and with all the skill that we know that Joey Carbery has got, I suppose it’s how he orchestrates the game on the day is something that we’ll all judge, but the team has something to do with that as well.”

Recovery

Farrell has intimated that he was sounded out about Ryan’s availability as a replacement for the stricken Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones last weekend.

“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.”

Tomorrow’s game will have an attendance of 3,000, and Jacob Stockdale revealed: “I figured out on the way down, it’s going to be 480 days since there’s been fans in the Aviva. I’m looking forward to playing in front of fans again. That said, it’s awesome, there is few new guys in there getting opportunities as well.”

Asked who is know the quickest over 30 or 40 metres in this remodeled 37-man squad, Stockdale said: “Ryan Baird gives a few boys a run for their money. Craig Casey over about 10 metres but after about 10 metres the wee legs can’t keep up, and we reel him in. But without a shadow of a doubt it is Robert Baloucoune.”

IRELAND: 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.

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