Ireland XV that should face Russia and restore some battered pride
"We had a good innings... "
Late on Saturday night, long after the dust had settled in Shizuoka and Ireland had dragged their defeated bodies from the field, Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble convened to pick through the carnage.
Ireland's momentum. Ireland's three-game winning streak. Ireland's positive start. Ireland's confidence. All blown apart by a driven, daring Japanese side that put in a minute 1 to 81 performance that Joe Schmidt's side could not live with.
Anyone brave enough, on these shores and on many others, to have predicted a Japanese victory would surely not have seen Ireland having to cling on for dear life, in those final three minutes, just to get a losing bonus point. Jamie Joseph's side had ravaged an Ireland side that had, only six days previous, torn Scotland asunder.
Murphy and Trimble, the former Ireland internationals, were joined on the line by Jerry Flannery for the latest episode of Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby and this one had plenty of questions that needed answering. The trio looked ahead to Ireland's next game, too, against Russia and what players may come back in for that.
"Defensively," Trimble notes, "they were really, really poor but the game was won by the amount of energy Japan brought to it. They played with such pace. They were so accurate, their phase-play was so accurate and their 9 was so quick at keeping the ball gone, so Ireland never really got off the line, they never got set and never made an impact. Japan got their tails up.
"Then, as a result of that and after the first 20 minutes, whenever Ireland got the ball, they looked so tired, flat and just looked like Japan had broke their spirit."
"Compare it to last week when we beat Scotland," Flannery comments, "we were good but Scotland were terrible. And today, we weren't great while Japan were really good, and it's a tough pill to swallow."
Ireland were always going to make a lot of changes for their Thursday encounter with World No.20 Russia, and the trio expect several changes and an interesting call to be made at outhalf. Despite his excellent first 25 minutes against Japan, Jack Carty may miss out on the matchday 23 completely.
We do know that Chris Farrell is out and that Jordi Murphy is flying in today to join up with the squad. Rob Kearney and Tadhg Furlong have not been ruled out yet but do not expect to see either of them again until we play Samoa in our final pool game.
One thing is for sure, several senior players need a game off. That means taking Rory Best, Peter O'Mahony, CJ Stander, James Ryan, Iain Henderson and Jacob Stockdale out and priming them for Samoa and, hopefully, the knock-out stages. To rest Stockdale, we play Larmour on the left wing and play Joey Carbery at fullback, with Johnny Sexton in the 10 jersey.
Here is the starting XV we would go with, and we expect Schmidt to follow these lines.
Our Ireland XV to face Russia
15. Joey Carbery
14. Andrew Conway
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jordan Larmour
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Luke McGrath
1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Niall Scannell
3. John Ryan
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. Jean Kleyn
6. Rhys Ruddock
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jordi Murphy
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Jack Carty, Keith Earls.
The Ireland vs. Russia game takes place at the altogether more decent kick-off of 11:15am (Irish time) in Kobe City.
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The latest episode sees Barry Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery look back on a massive World Cup bump in the road for Ireland.
WATCH THE IRELAND Vs. JAPAN HIGHLIGHTS HERE: