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‘No mixed bag for me’: Ireland coach Andy Farrell talks up win over Japan

Ireland 39 Japan 31

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Nap hand: Stuart McCloskey touches down for one of Ireland’s five tries. Credit: INPHO/Gary Carr

Nap hand: Stuart McCloskey touches down for one of Ireland’s five tries. Credit: INPHO/Gary Carr

©INPHO/Gary Carr

Jacob Stockdale celebrates his try. Credit: INPHO/Gary Carr

Jacob Stockdale celebrates his try. Credit: INPHO/Gary Carr

©INPHO/Gary Carr

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Nap hand: Stuart McCloskey touches down for one of Ireland’s five tries. Credit: INPHO/Gary Carr

Given the recent history between these two sides, nobody in the green corner was every likely to turn their nose up at victory on Saturday in the Aviva Stadium.

The first time Ireland have played in front of their own supporters since February of 2020 saw Andy Farrell’s men exact a small measure of revenge over Japan for the defeat which so derailed their pool stages at the last World Cup as a much changed selection overcame a slow start to ultimately win by two scores.

This had been a back-and-forth contest, one in which the early stages hinted at another defeat against the Brave Blossoms to sit alongside Shizuoka 21 months ago. Ireland, in their first match since the conclusion of the Six Nations back in mid-March, struggled with continuity early on, not helped by a faltering line-out, ill-discipline and jarring strugglings in their reclaiming of restarts.

They fixed the latter of those failings while enduring the former, taking control of the game in the second-half when Jacob Stockdale scored the side’s fifth on the day to move into a tie with Girvan Dempsey in sixth place on Ireland’s all-time scoring chart.

Japan would come back once more but Joey Carbery’s penalty ensured the eight-point winning margin on a day when Chris Farrell, Stuart McCloskey, Finlay Bealham and Josh van der Flier also got over the line.

Entertaining fare for the 3,000 in attendance with Japan playing their trademark brand of high tempo, high-risk rugby, but a coach’s more forensic eye would find plenty of areas where improvements are required to go along with the strong showings of the side’s back-row, Hugo Keenan and Ryan Baird from the bench. Publicly at least, Andy Farrell’s focus was on what his side had done well in what was their fourth win in a row. 

“No mixed bag for me,” he said happily. “I’m delighted with the win.

"It was always going to be a tough old challenge for our group against what I believe to be a top class international aside. So any type of ‘W’ was always going to be a big win for us.”

Farrell was of course doing without his seven-strong British and Irish Lions contingent currently toiling away in South Africa while a handful of other front-liners have either been stood down for the summer or missed out through injury.

As such, it was perhaps to be expected that a side formed from somewhat unfamiliar combinations looked occasionally to be lacking in cohesion.

"It was never going to be perfect and I think we saw certainly in the first half, they was Test match fit and up to speed compared to us, probably through the preparation and the hit-out against the Sunwolves and the game against the Lions, and the opportunities that they created against them would have given them confidence going into the game.

“I thought we was a bit rusty, certainly in the first half, and we compounded it with making errors on errors. It made the game difficult for us. It looked like they had legs more than we did.

“But having said that, in the second half, we imposed ourselves, we controlled the game with our set-piece and our field position and we continued to go after Japan in that second half, which was the most pleasing thing.

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“The hardest thing for any team that’s new and coming together, is dealing with negativity within your own game, especially against a side like Japan that is so dangerous and willing to counter attack. But we managed to stay calm, to stay in control, to stay next task focused and I think that got us through in the end.”

Next up for Farrell’s side will be the visit of the USA to Dublin on Saturday evening. Not quite as live a proposition as the Japanese – they have never overcome Ireland in ten attempts and were well beaten by an inexperienced England side yesterday – it is expected that more fresh faces will be given their international bows by Farrell. 

Given how this one panned out, the head coach may well feel justified for having made them wait.


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