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Jonathan Bradley: Ireland's list of positives from the bonus point win over Russia is a short one

Ireland 35-0 Russia

All action: Ireland’s full back Rob Kearney scores a try during the Pool A match against Russia at the
Kobe Misaki Stadium
All action: Ireland’s full back Rob Kearney scores a try during the Pool A match against Russia at the Kobe Misaki Stadium

By Jonathan Bradley in Kobe

In the end, at least the many fans back home that were forced into missing yesterday's game due to work didn't miss much.

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There were a few positives. The five tries, and five points for the victory. Rhys Ruddock performed well. Luke McGrath looked capable and Russia, for all their endeavour, never looked like scoring.

There endeth the list.

If the bigger days ahead go Ireland's way - even though that now would feel more out of context than ever - then yesterday in Kobe becomes a rarely mentioned footnote. Just like an uninspiring win over Italy last time around was seared in the memory only until the side dismantled France a week later.

Should things continue to trend in the wrong direction though, it won't be far off being mentioned in the same breath as Namibia back in 2007.

Ireland pitched up in the Kobe Misaki Stadium knowing that the minimum requirement was to win and score four tries. In that respect, it was job done.

Teams that arrived in Japan with aspirations of lifting the Webb Ellis are judged by a different standard though. Getting the job done isn't enough to stop the concern that first raised its head in the Six Nations, flared in the immediate aftermath of the warm-up thumping in Twickenham and returned with a vengeance following last weekend's shock loss to Japan in Shizuoka.

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Context is important. The conditions in this stadium have posed problems for England, Scotland and now Ireland in quick succession. The humidity is a real factor and leads to frustrating errors. The Springboks are the next to face the Test.

This was a changed Ireland team too, even if the replicating of provincial combinations in the tight-five and half-back should have helped mitigate against it, while Johnny Sexton managed only a half of the game. Ireland's most laboured period - the 20 minutes after the turn - came directly following their stand-in captain's early exit.

There is an unavoidable sense, though, that Yokohama feels very long ago now... 2018 even further into the past.

The result was never in doubt, but the 27 minutes between Ruddock's third score and the relief of Andrew Conway's fourth were concerning.

Having spoken of winning the moments earlier this week, those mini-battles were slipping away. Russia could sense it too. You could see it in their fantastic tight-head Kirill Gotovtsev's raised fist after a scrum penalty, in the leap from Ramil Gaisin after a poor clearing kick was booted back with interest by skipper Vasily Artemyev to pin back Joe Schmidt's men.

The Ireland coach admitted afterwards that people will have expected more from the performance but declared himself satisfied with not just the outcome but how they got there.

As is his wont, and he certainly seemed to be relatively relaxed as he finished up his media duties and headed into the humid night.

He's built up a CV in a decade on these shores that, while not putting him beyond question, certainly gives his response an added validity to some that have sat in the hotseat before him. On the flip side, he and the players, as far away as they feel from home as they move from Kobe further south to Fukuoka today, will know that win, or rather its nature, will do little to lift the mood at home.

There was enough in the opening half hour to suggest that they remain a different, and decidedly better, team with Sexton in it, and it was stressed in the aftermath that his half-time substitution was planned.

The out-half will be required to go again against Samoa in eight days' time, and naturally remains - even at 34-years-old - the most important name on the team-sheet when it comes to beating the All Blacks or Springboks in the knock-out stages.

James Ryan follows close behind, and he too should be back having been granted a breather for the game against the Russians.

The contrast to the All Blacks looks stark though. Even if Steve Hansen's men were prone to a handling error themselves in the equally humid Oita two nights ago, they racked up 63 points against Canada, and that off the back of beating the Springboks.

Ireland entered this tournament ranked the No.1 side in the world, but they appear to be on a collision course with the favourites.

That's a game when "job done" will really mean something.

IRELAND: R Kearney, A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki, K Earls; J Sexton (c), L McGrath; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; T Beirne, J Kleyn; R Ruddock, P O'Mahony, J Murphy.

Replacements: CJ Stander (for Murphy, 26), J Carty (for Sexton, 40) J Larmour (for Kearney, 48), S Cronin (for Scannell, 57), A Porter (Kilcoyne, 57)T Furlong (for Ryan, 57), I Henderson (for Kleyn, 60)

Not used: C Murray

RUSSIA: V Artemyev (c); G Davydov, I Galinovskiy, K Golosnitskiy, D Simplikevich; R Gaisin, D Perov; A Polivalov, E Matveev, K Gotovtsev; A Garbuzov, B Fedotko; A Sychev, T Gadzhiev, V Gresev

Replacements: V Ostroushko (for Golosnitskiy, 14), S Selskii (for Matveev, 40), V Morozov (for Polivalov, 40), A Ostrikov (for Garbuzov, 48), E Elgin (for B Fedotko, 64), V Podrezov (for K Gotovtsev, 68), R Khodin (for Sychev, 68) S Ianiushkin (for D Perov, 70)

Man of the match: Rhys Ruddock (IRE)

Referee: J Garces (FRA)

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