‘They’ve seen what we can do and try to stop us’

Ireland may pride themselves on being next-job focused but Saturday’s shock defeat to Japan still looms large, even with the Pool A clash against Russia just two days away.

‘They’ve seen what we can do and try to stop us’

Ireland may pride themselves on being next-job focused but Saturday’s shock defeat to Japan still looms large, even with the Pool A clash against Russia just two days away.

Such was the jolt delivered by the host nation to Ireland’s hopes of a smooth passage into the quarter-finals as unbeaten Pool A winners that the players were on Monday given a second opportunity to review at least some of the 19-12 loss in Shizuoka.

Head coach Joe Schmidt’s main review took place a day ahead of schedule on Sunday and the uncomfortable viewing continued as the squad, demoted from number two in the world rankings to four as a further reminder of their shortcomings, woke up yesterday from their first night’s sleep in Kobe, 300km removed from the scene of their embarrassment.

“It’s one of those games we know we could have done better,” CJ Stander said. “Joe just pointed out what we left out there, points-wise, and what we could have done better as individuals. He has been Joe. He has been supporting the squad. He wants us to be the best we can be so he has pointed out what we can do better and, on the other side, supporting us – arms around a few lads while he’s been harsh to a few boys. That’s just how we work here. We take what we get and we give what we can give.

“He just wants to make sure that we recover well because it’s a short turnaround (to Russia). Five days in international rugby is massive so he wants us to be energised and physically ready.”

Stander, likely to be named today among the replacements in the matchday squad to face Russia, reported that the mood in the squad was beginning to lift by the industrialised shores of Osaka Bay.

“We had time to reflect on it and look back on what we could have done and the opportunities that we left out there. There is frustration and it’s part of this game, a loss like that is going to sting. The mood Sunday was a bit down but it’s picking up again because we know we have a big game coming up. In this game, I’ve learned that you can’t take more than 24 hours to get your head right again because you’ve got an opportunity to go out there and represent that jersey again. In a World Cup, you don’t have time to learn lessons when it gets to the play-offs. We got a few lessons from this weekend.

A defeat to Russia, ranked 20th in the world and still to record a victory at this World Cup or their previous visit to the tournament in 2011, is nigh on unthinkable but even a team which lost to the Jersey Reds in pre-season will have been encouraged by the ease with which Japan unsettled the Irish last Saturday. Stander is confident his team’s poor performance has not given their remaining pool opponents Russia and Samoa a Japanese template for similar discomfort, even if it was the latest example in 2019 of inconsistency.

“I think a lot of teams have seen what we can do and a lot of teams try to stop us. I think again if we stick to our process and do everything to the best we can do, it’s difficult for teams to get in there.

“A lot of teams have seen how to beat us if we look even in the pre-season games. It’s easy to look at what they can do but I think, for us, we just need to make sure we don’t give them that ins, that we use our opportunities and that if we make mistakes, that they don’t capitalise on them.

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