Irish rugby blushes saved by 11th-place play-off win

Ireland acknowledge victory over Japan. Picture: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

World Rugby U20 Championship: Ireland 39 - Japan 33: Irish coach Noel McNamara believes that many of his squad will go on to professional careers and represent the national senior side despite a miserable fortnight at the World Rugby U20 Championship.

Ireland, having led hosts France 17-5 at half-time in the opening game, had to withstand a late rally from Japan yesterday to prevent relegation for the first time to the World Trophy tournament.

And while Japan outscored them by five tries to four in Beziers yesterday, Ireland did enough to hold out for the win which ensures they will be participating when the competition is held in Argentina next year.

“There are a number of guys who were involved with us in the Six Nations — who didn’t spend a lot of time with us here — who have bright futures ahead,” said McNamara.

“I think the future of Irish rugby in the provinces and the national team will be served by this team. We knew we were in for a massive battle, it was a cup final in many ways but an entirely different type of pressure that most of these young men would’ve faced before.”

Ireland led 22-12 at the break thanks to tries from scrum-half Jonny Stewart, hooker Dan Sheehan, and centre Peter Sylvester. Harry Byrne, who finished with 19 points, tacked on four penalties after the restart but Japan never gave up and with Tongan-born Siosaia Fifita and the other winger Halatoa Yamasawa both getting their second tries, Japan cut the gap to 34-33 six minutes from time.

Tommy O’Brien eased Irish nerves with a try in the left corner, but Ireland had to withstand a 19-phase move from Japan to ensure their place in next year’s competition.

“We would’ve dealt with it had we gone down. Obviously, it would’ve been a setback, particularly for next year’s group because this is a fantastic tournament and it’s been amazing experience for these young men,” said McNamara.

Scorers for Ireland:

Tries: J Stewart, D Sheehan, P Sylvester, T O’Brien Conversions: H Byrne (3) Penalties: Byrne (5)

Scorers for Japan:

Tries: S Fifita (2), H Vailea (2), R Tsukayama Conversions: Y Mori (4)


M Lowry (Ulster); J Humes (Ulster), S O’Brien (Leinster), P Sylvester (Munster), T O’Brien (Leinster); H Byrne (Leinster), J Stewart (Ulster); J Duggan (Leinster), D Sheehan (Leinster), J Aungier (Leinster); C Daly (Leinster), J Dunne (Leinster); J Daly (Munster), M Agnew (Ulster), C Doris (Leinster).


J Dunleavy (Ulster) for Agnew (half-time), D Tierney (Connacht) for Sheehan (66), C Ryan (Leinster) for C Daly (66), H O’Sullivan (Leinster) for Stewart (70), J Byrne (Leinster) for Aungier (74).


K Yamasawa; H Vailea, S Vakalahi, Y Mori, S Fifita; H Mamada, A Hondo; Y Yamada, M Arai, R Tsukayama, K Shimokawa, R Hashimoto ; K Yamamoto, H Okayama, A Moala.


S Fujiwar for Hondo (50), G Ishida for Yamada (53), S Oyama for Tsukayama (53), K Aibe for Yamamoto (70).


Karl Dickson (England).


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