After a lengthy hiatus owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan’s test side were back in action this summer for the first time since hosting the 2019 World Cup.
The hosts were mightily impressive that tournament, winning all four group matches before losing in the knockouts to eventual winners South Africa.
What’s more impressive is they beat both Scotland and Ireland in that tournament, and the hosts will be very wary of their visitors again here.
Ireland come into this off the back of five straight victories, and while that is a good foundation on which to build, they’ll take far more confidence from their home record as they’ve won 14 of their last 15 at the Aviva Stadium, only losing to an impressive France side in this year’s Six Nations by two points.
That run did include a revenge victory over Japan in July of this year, though the Cherry Blossoms ran them close in a 39-31 contest and we wouldn’t be surprised if this was another close contest.
Japan +18 Handicap
The visitors have lost all three matches since their return to test action this year, though with those games against Ireland, the British and Irish Lions and Australia, three defeats is to be expected.
What’s been impressive though is the manner of those, and while they would have been rusty in an 18-point defeat to the Lions after almost two years off, they kept within 10 points of both Ireland and an in-form Wallabies side, leaving the current handicap line of +18 looking slightly long for the visitors.
Despite losing the first nine meetings by more than that margin, they’ve covered it in each of the last two and are a far more capable side now than they were even five years ago.
They’ve covered that line in 10 of the last 13 tests they’ve played, and we’d expect a similarly competent display here.
Robbie Henshaw remains the only absentee for Andy Farrell’s men, with Jonny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong earning their 100th and 50th caps respectively, with the former part of a very experienced backline with an average age of just under 30.
Japan look stronger than they did against Australia in their last clash, with winger Kotaro Matsushima added to the XV along with five-eighth Yu Tamura, who was instrumental in their World Cup victory over the Irish, so we have the get the visitors to cover the handicap line here.
JAPAN +18 HANDICAP