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Japanese are ready to employ forward thinking in Ireland showdown at Rugby World Cup


Side step: Yasuke Kizu singled out Cian Healy's tactics at scrums
Side step: Yasuke Kizu singled out Cian Healy's tactics at scrums
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Scrum was certainly the word when it came to the Japanese media conference in Hamamatsu yesterday.

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Helpfully the same in the English as it is in the local tongue, there was no doubting the Japanese wish to direct the flow of conversation towards the set-piece.

There was only likely to be one topic of conversation when the first three people to be presented to the assembled press were the scrum coach Shin Hasegawa, loosehead Isileli Nakajima and tighthead Yasuke Kizu, the latter who offered an interesting take on the technique of Ireland's Cian Healy.

Given Ireland's showing against Scotland, and Japan's tight five usually having to boast a few imports in order to beef up an undersized unit, it's natural to assume that Joe Schmidt's men will look to take on the Brave Blossoms up front.

"They are very strong, and Ireland has the winning mentality when it comes to scrummaging," began Hasegawa.

"We need to nullify their strong loosehead and tighthead, so we don't let them scrum at 100%."

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"I've loved their scrum for a long time, so we really need to think about how we counter them, and how we talk and coordinate with the players.

"It doesn't matter who we come against, each scrum is different, some opponents allow us to scrum how we want and other opponents won't allow us to do what we want.

"We feel confident in our scrum, it's a matter of fine-tuning. We need to be determined and committed in or scrum."

The conversation, via a translator, moved to referee Angus Gardner, who has already been criticised by Argentina coach Mario Ledesma for his performance during the Pumas loss to France on Saturday.

"After the first game the referee might change his perception or the trend, but not all referees are the same so we have to adapt," Hasegawa said.

"If he referees as usual that will be fine."

A gentle reminder and no more but there was nothing subtle about what followed from Kizu later on.

"Their loosehead prop steps out, so they try to attack from the side, that's my impression of their scrum," he said, planting seeds of illegal tactics that by now are sure to have even penetrated through Ireland's famously sturdy "bubble."

He did have kinder words for skipper Rory Best at least, singling out the Ulsterman as the player he most admires in the Ireland side.

"The hooker, Rory Best, I think he's a great player," he added. "In scrums, set-pieces and around the field, I think he's got great skills.

"(To play 80 minutes), that's awesome."

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