If Ireland haven’t already got a taste of what it will be like when they return to Japan for the 2019 World Cup, then they will get it tomorrow when they run out at the splendid Ajinomoto Stadium in the Tokyo suburbs, writes John Fallon in Tokyo.
The 49,970 stadium, which is nestled among houses in Chofu, around 25 kilometres from Tokyo centre, will be the location for the opening ceremony and the first match of RWC 2019.
How many of this inexperienced Irish side return remains to be seen, but tour captain Rhys Ruddock said it is a magnificent venue that they are all looking to play on.
“It’s an amazing stadium. The pitch is great. Obviously tomorrow we’ll really get a feel for it when it’s got the atmosphere which we’re expecting. First impressions are great but I think tomorrow will give us a better insight.”
It’s the last match of the season for all these players — unless, of course, a call comes from New Zealand — and the captain’s run in sweltering heat this morning will be the last session before they begin pre-season training with their clubs in a few weeks.
But Ruddock said that there was no sign of end of season fatigue and that they were raring to go tomorrow and complete the tour with a third win.
“I think everyone’s really enjoying the tour and this group has really grown tighter and tighter.
“This week will hopefully be the most enjoyable experience.
“Everyone has formed those bonds and it’s a chance to go out and play one last time together.
“This is a really good close group and a lot of good mates that I would have played with at U20s and coming through (at Leinster) so it’s been enjoyable from that perspective.
“Then also the honour of captaining your country as well, It’s one of the highest honours you could have. That’s been massive. I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Ruddock, with the Irish camp reporting no late changes to the selected 23 where John Cooney looks set to become the eighth debutant on this tour if he is introduced from the bench.