FUKUROI CITY, Japan (Reuters) - Japan’s 19-12 World Cup win over Ireland may have stunned the rugby world on Saturday but one man claimed that he was not surprised - Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.
“It’s not the first time we’ve seen them do it, it’s not a surprise to us that they were incredibly tough to beat,” Schmidt told a news conference.
“I don’t think the Japanese performance exceeded my expectations - it unfortunately met my expectations. We expected them to be as good as they were. We knew they were going to be incredibly tough and so it proved.”
The hosts, who had never beaten Ireland before, were richly deserved winners in the Pool A encounter Shizuoka, harrying an Irish pack that looked so powerful in their opening win over Scotland and constantly threatening out wide.
Schmidt praised the Japanese tight-five and what he described as a very effective backrow and an opposing backline that his side found difficult to contain.
Ireland beat Japan twice in 2017, racking up 85 points in the process, and had not lost to them in seven previous matches in all but they faced a much tighter, disciplined unit this time around.
“I think two years ago, they gave us a lot of access with spilled balls and turnovers but we knew this wasn’t going to be the case this time,” said centre Garry Ringrose, who scored the match’s opening try.
“They always have skill but this time they didn’t give us as much access into the game.
“Going into the game, we didn’t underestimate them in any way in how they were going to perform because we knew the quality was there. They didn’t disappoint.”
Schmidt said it had been a tough result to take but found some consolation in Ireland’s losing bonus point.
“Potentially the bonus point could be really important. It means that we have got six points, Japan have got nine and Samoa have five.
“We’ve no doubt that Scotland will be a player too. We will have to chase a little bit now because we want to stay in with a chance of topping the pool and certainly we have got to get in the top two.”
Ireland face Russia in five days time before rounding off their pool games against Samoa.
“The strength of the team will be how they respond and how they rebound from this. A six-day turnaround from this game was a little bit tough and we’ve (now) got a five-day turnaround which will be another challenge for us,” New Zealander Schmidt added.
Ringrose hoped his team would produce a positive reaction to Saturday’s defeat and take lessons learned into the match with Russia on Oct. 5.
“Collectively we know we can do better but we know that if we lose a game it isn’t going to knock us off too much from what we believe in,” he stressed.
“These sorts of things will bring us closer together. It is going to have to, if we are going to get a result in the next game.”
Reporting by Padraic Halpin and Jack Tarrant; editing by Tony Lawrence