Japan wing Lomano Lemeki has predicted a home upset when the Brave Blossoms meet Ireland on Saturday - because Johnny Sexton is not fully fit.
Four Japanese players and their attack coach Tony Brown faced the media in Hamamatsu today ahead of their clash with the Pool A favourites and each of them cited the importance of Sexton to Ireland’s success.
Former All Black fly-half Brown widened that to Ireland’s half-back partnership of Conor Murray and Sexton when he said: “The two key players are their nine and 10. They control their game, they control their position and their speed so putting them under pressure is potentially going to be the start of how we slow them down.”
Yet none went quite as far as New Zealand-born Tongan-Japanese winger Lemeki who was confident that if Sexton was selected having missed Ireland training on Tuesday following a bang on the quad in their opening win over Scotland, the fly-half would be getting some close attention.
“They are key players, I don't know whether they are going to be on the field or not, but if they are there, they want to take control. They are like the head coaches of the team,” Lemeki said of Murray and Sexton.
“We want to frustrate them in the tackle. Both wingers are quality wingers, they have strong forwards, strong backs, but the key player is the 10.
Asked for his score prediction in Shizuoka on Saturday, Lemeki replied: “I think we'll win 33-26. Why? Because we train hard, and Sexton is not 100%.”
The wing said Japan would need to attack Ireland on the outside edges or face the consequences of a physical breakdown battle.
“Wide channels, they are going to come for our ball, so double ruck, offloading will be crucial. Strong set-piece too, they are really strong there.
“They are going to really come up hard, apply pressure up front, so we must create space out wide. They come up but they drift, so we need to attack the outside of the defence.
"If we go inside they will jackal our ball. So it's about attacking close around the ruck or kick in behind.”