TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan know they face a huge challenge to contain Ireland in their second Rugby World Cup match later this week, and their forwards have hatched a plan to double team the big Irish ball-carriers in Shizuoka.
The host nation got off to a winning start with a 30-10 victory over Russia last Friday in Tokyo. But the Irish, who were top of the world rankings until Monday, will pose a much greater threat on Saturday.
Ireland’s pack smashed their way across the line for three tries in the first 25 minutes of their opener against Scotland on Sunday, and there were as many line-breaks by the forwards as the backs in their eventual 27-3 victory.
Tongan-born Isileli Nakajima, who recently converted from lock to prop, said he was confident the Brave Blossoms forwards could hold their own.
“They are a really physical team, and I don’t mind if they are number one in the world, we will give them a very good game,” he said in Shizuoka on Tuesday.
“We’re going to send two guys in there to stop them. It’s called a double collision - one low, one high. And if that works, it should be no problem.”
Scrumhalf Yutaka Nagare said Japan needed to disrupt and put pressure on the Irish to prevent them getting comfortable, particularly when it comes to whatever halfback pairing Ireland coach Joe Schmidt plumps for.
“Ireland don’t make mistakes, they are very resilient, able to keep the ball and are focused in defence,” he said.
“The nine and 10 are key players and if we let those two players play comfortably, they will really come into the game and dominate.
“So it’s important that we pressure them at source every opportunity we get, and apply that pressure for the whole 80 minutes. Especially early on, apply immense pressure so that they feel really uncomfortable from the start.”
Japan played back to back home tests against the Irish in 2017, losing the first in Shizuoka 50-22 and the second 35-13 in Tokyo.
“I played in those two games, and what we learned is important, (that) we don’t make mistakes and be decisive in what we do,” Nagare said.
“If we can’t do that, we can’t be competitive against a quality side. In four years, we have played all tier one nations. Through all that, we’ve learned how to beat the best teams in the world.”
Japan famously took the scalp of tier one nation South Africa at the last World Cup, and Nagare said another upset was not as unlikely as many believed.
“Obviously the majority of the public is favouring the Ireland side, they are expected to win,” he said.
“But we are pretty confident, and we truly believe we can prove them wrong.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Hugh Lawson