The Lions saw off this visiting Japanese side with relative ease at Murrayfield last weekend, with a 28-10 victory covering the 16-point handicap line, though we’d expect this Japan side to be more settled now and they could cause Ireland an issue or two.
Japan famously won the last meeting between these nations, running out 19-12 victors in the 2019 World Cup.
That was their first ever victory over the Irish in eight meetings, though it should be noted that the game was played in Fukuroi, with the only two previous meetings in Dublin finishing 32-16 (1991) and 78-9 (2000). While we wouldn’t expect a scoreline as dominant as that meeting back in 2000, home soil will certainly play its part here.
Ireland will be the rustier of the two sides, having not played together since the Six Nations, though they do come into this off the back of three successive wins over England, Scotland, and Italy.
While anything other than a win for the hosts would be deemed as failure here, they do have mitigation in that seven of their starting side are away on Lions duty in South Africa, which certainly weakens them.
Ireland -9 Point Handicap
One area that the Irish are likely to dominate s the breakdown, and that ultimately will be where this game is won and lost.
Despite half their forward pack being unavailable here, it gives Andy Farrell the opportunity to test out some fringe players, who will be determined to make an impact and we still view this as the area of the field that the hosts will have the upper hand in.
While they’ve managed big wins in major tournaments against Scotland and Ireland (2019) as well as South Africa (2015), the former two of those were on home soil and when the stakes aren’t as high, the Japanese have often fallen short.
Indeed, in friendly matches against Tier 1 nations (excluding Italy), Japan have lost seven of their last eight winless matches since June 2017, with all of those defeats coming by at least 18 points.
While they would have shaken off some rustiness against the Lions and the Sunwolves in their two most recent outings, Ireland look to have a bit too much here and on home soil, they’re worth backing to cover the handicap.
Ireland v Japan Teams
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Jamison Gibson Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan (captain), 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Gavin Coombes, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Shane Daly.
Japan: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Semisi Masirewa, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Siosaia Fifita, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Naoto Saito, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch (captain), 5 James Moore, 4 Wimpie van der Walt, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Atsushi Sakate, １ Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: 16 Kosuke Horikoshi, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Jack Cornelsen Panasonic, 20 Tevita Tatafu, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Shane Gates.