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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Improving Japan set to make Ireland work hard for victory

Humid conditions could prove testing

Keith Earls scored two tries for Ireland against the USA
1 of 1

Premier Sports, 6am Saturday

Ireland got their June campaign off to a flying start with a 55-19 victory over the USA at the weekend but they may face a sterner test against another tier-two side in Japan.

The first of Ireland's nine tries came in just the third minute and the game was as one-sided as the 55-19 scoreline suggests.

The USA are ranked 17th in the world and Japan 11th but the teams have been heading in opposite directions.

Japan, who will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup, are on the up with a team competing in Super Rugby - the Sunwolves - and they finished third in their group at the 2015 World Cup with a famous win over South Africa along the way.

The USA finished bottom of that same pool without a win, and their success at the World Sevens seems to have come to the detriment of their standing in the 15-man game.

So this is a step up for the Irish against a disciplined team well managed by Kiwi coach Jamie Joseph, who came through a tough workout against Romania last week with a 33-21 victory.

Taking on teams with a strong set-piece emphasis is always likely to be tough for Japan, and there were times when they found it hard to cope with the pressure put on them up front.

Ireland certainly have a dependable set-piece but the way they cut loose in America suggests they may again look to put the ball wide and play an open game.

That should suit Japan who are a supremely fit team and have troubled northern hemisphere teams in recent years.

During the 2013 Lions tour Wales played the Brave Blossoms twice, winning the first Test by four points and losing the second, while the same nations produced a thriller last autumn which Wales won 33-30 thanks to a late drop goal.

Scotland won their two Tests in Aichi and Tokyo last June by 13 and five points, and in testing, humid conditions, Ireland may find it a tough ask to overcome a 15-point handicap.

Recommendation
Japan +15
2pts 10-11 Coral, Ladbrokes

This is a step up for the Irish against a disciplined team well managed by Kiwi coach Jamie Joseph
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