The next stop on Japan's tour of Europe is the Emerald Aisle, where a determined Irish side will be looking to make home ground advantage count when the two sides collide on Saturday.
Ireland v Japan
Saturday 3 July
To Win (80 Mins)
Ireland (-10.5) 9/10
Japan (+10.5) 9/10
Japan will be pretty pleased with their performance against the British and Irish Lions last weekend. As always, they were full of heart and while they did cough up quite a bit of ball, they enjoyed good periods where their outside backs gave the Lions all sorts of problems.
There were elements that will have annoyed Jamie Joseph during that 28-10 defeat, though. His charges threw a couple of loose passes and took the wrong options on a few occasions, scuppering potential scoring opportunities. I fully expect them to be a lot more clinical with ball-in-hand this coming weekend, however.
This is a potential banana peel for the Irish and they will know all about it after losing 19-12 to the Brave Blossoms at the 2019 World Cup.
The Irish haven’t been as hard hit by Lions call ups as one would have expected. They’ve got a number of seasoned backs still in the fold with Bundee Akee, Keith Earls and Jonathon Sexton out – the latter two are being rested while the former is with the Lions. They have lost a couple of their forwards to the Lions, and it will be interesting to see how they go at lineout time against a Japanese outfit that brings a lot of variety to the set-piece.
Verdict: Japan (+10.5) 9/10
This is sure to be a tight run thing with the Japanese continuing to prove they are able to mix it with the big boys. As such, I’m firmly on the plus handicap here.