Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has announced the team to face Japan in Shizuoka on Saturday (kick-off 2pm local time/6am Irish time) in the second Test of the three-match summer tour.
There are six changes in personnel to the side that started last weekend’s 55-19 victory over the USA in New Jersey, with Andrew Conway, Rory Scannell, Luke McGrath and Dan Leavy all coming in for their first starts.
Keith Earls, the man-of-the-match in the tour opener, shifts to the left wing to accommodate the inclusion of Conway in an all-Munster back-three completed by Simon Zebo, who returns at full-back.
The 23-year-old Scannell will partner Garry Ringrose (22) in a new centre combination, while former Ireland Under-20 team-mates McGrath and Paddy Jackson will fill the half-back berths against one of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup 2019 pool opponents.
Leinster youngster Leavy is the only change up front, featuring at openside flanker alongside his provincial colleagues Rhys Ruddock, who captains Ireland for the second time, and Jack Conan who was one of eight Irish try scorers in New Jersey.
The same front five will pack down again with Cian Healy, Scannell’s older brother Niall and John Ryan manning the front row positions, while Quinn Roux and Devin Toner, who is edging closer to a half-century of caps, will get a second successive outing together in the engine room.
Following on from the awarding of five new caps last week, Ulster lock Kieran Treadwell and Leinster centre/winger Rory O’Loughlin – aged 21 and 23 respectively – are standing by to make their Ireland debuts off the bench. James Tracy, Finlay Bealham and Jack O’Donoghue are also set for their first appearances of the tour.
With twelve of the matchday squad having five caps or less, Joe Schmidt is looking forward to seeing how those players fare against a passionate and well-drilled Japanese team in testing conditions.
“I think we have some injured guys at home who might otherwise have been with us. They would have added a bit of guidance and experience, some of them have played here before, but I think it’s a great opportunity to learn who can adapt and who can adapt the fastest because some of these players are being thrown in the deep end and I have to say the coaching staff are looking forward to seeing how they go,” he said.
“They have worked hard away from the pitch to make sure they get themselves as organised as possible and hopefully that is apparent on Saturday.
“Trying to acclimatise has been very difficult. We did have the advantage of playing in very hot temperatures in New Jersey last weekend but by the time we left the hotel on Sunday morning and by the time we arrived here it was Monday night.
“You are very jumbled from the different time zones and so that has taken a toll but it certainly won’t be considered anything other than an imposition in the early part of the week, and by the end of the week we have to make sure we are ready to go.
“The work-rate in training today was really good because I think the players are very conscious that it is the only training we will get this week, so they wanted to make sure that they got as much clarity and got a bit of rhythm as best they could. It wasn’t perfect, and it seldom is, but I think we will learn from it and hopefully we will be a little more cohesive by the time we kick off on Saturday.”
The eagerly-awaited first Test between Japan and Ireland kicks off at 2pm local time/6am Irish time and will be broadcast live on eir Sport 2 in Ireland and Premier Sports in the UK.
IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Japan, 2017 Summer Tour Test, Ecopa Stadium, Shizuoka, Saturday, June 17, kick-off 2pm local time/6am Irish time):
15. Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster) 34
14. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 1
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 9
12. Rory Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 1
11. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 60
10. Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster) 23
9. Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 3
1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 68
2. Niall Scannell (Dolphin/Munster) 5
3. John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 7
4. Quinn Roux (Galwegians/Connacht) 2
5. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 48
6. Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt) 14
7. Dan Leavy (UCD/Leinster) 3
8. Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 2
16. James Tracy (UCD/Leinster) 2
17. Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 18
18. Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht) 6
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ballymena/Ulster) *
20. Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohemians/Munster) 1
21. Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht) 14
22. Rory O’Loughlin (Old Belvedere/Leinster) *
23. Tiernan O’Halloran (Buccaneers/Connacht) 4
* Denotes uncapped player