Ireland coach Joe Schmidt admits this two-match tour to Japan is proving hugely beneficial in their preparations for the World Cup.
The stopover in New Jersey for the clash with the USA added a layer of difficulty which they won’t encounter in 2019, but Schmidt believes they are learning valuable lessons ahead of their return to Japan in two years time.
His first priority, though, is to get an inexperienced squad to extend Ireland’s 100% record against Japan to six games tomorrow in a match which will kick off at 2pm (6am Irish time) in muggy, humid conditions.
Jetlag has been an issue this week, with the US stopover taking a heavy toll.
Schmidt explained: “Some guys are flat because they are waking up at 1am or 2am and can’t get back to sleep. That means by 8pm they are starting to flag so that is one of the challenges. That’s been a great learning experience for players who return for a World Cup and a big cohort of these players will be coming to the World Cup.
“It’s exaggerated by having to come from New York but I know myself I am completely jumbled. More so than usual!”
The 40-minute trek to training yesterday in dense Tokyo traffic — was noted for when they return, but there are no issues with food or facilities.
Jetlag and humidity are items they will factor in when making their preparations for 2019.
“One of the things is we feel we’re going to be really well looked after. The Japanese have been very good hosts so far,” added Schmidt.
“We will look hard for training bases that aren’t too far from where we’re domiciled. We were 40 minutes away today and 40 minutes back, that starts to stack up, during a day where you want the players to recover well, so you want them to freshen up between sessions.
“We’re certainly learning if we can be domiciled close to where we’re training (for the World Cup).
“There have been no issues with food. All the lads have really enjoyed the food. We’d a good balance with some western style food and some fantastic Japanese food. We’d lunch today, some salmon sushi I’d thoroughly recommend.”
The squad arrived in Hamamatsu, about 200km southwest of Tokyo, by bullet train yesterday for tomorrow’s first Test at the Ecopa Stadium, a World Cup venue in 2019.
Schmidt’s aim of using this tour to broaden his playing base will continue on Saturday with Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin and Ulster lock Kieran Treadwell set to make their international debuts off the bench, a week after five others were capped for the first time.
In addition, Andrew Conway, Rory Scannell, and scrum-half Luke McGrath will make their first starts in an Ireland side which has six changes from that which hammered USA 55-19 in New Jersey last weekend.
Five of the changes are at the back with Conway, Scannell, McGrath, Simon Zebo and Paddy Jackson coming into the selection.
The only change in the pack sees Dan Leavy take over at openside from Josh van der Flier. Schmidt, who did not call in a replacement when Joey Carbery’s tour ended with an ankle injury last weekend, had a full hand to select from in the reduced 30-man squad, with Paddy Jackson and Sean Reidy linking up with the squad in Japan this week.
Japan have made five changes to the side which defeated Romania 33-21 last weekend.
But coach Jamie Joseph has had to plan without three experienced players with Harumichi Tatekawa, Akihito Yamada, Yu Chinen and veteran Hitoshi Ono all ruled out through injury.
“We’ve got to try our best to stop them hitting the ground running because they did against the Romanians,” added Schmidt.
“Their ability from unstructured play; quick lineout, quick tap, quickly taken free kicks, we can’t afford to get taken unaware by those.
R Noguchi; K Matsushima, W Tupou, T Lafaele, K Fukuoka; Y Tamura, F Tanaka; K Inagaki, S Horie, H Ito; K Yatabe, U Helu; M Leitch, Y Tokanuga, A Mafi.
Y Niwai, S Ishihara, T Asahara, H Tui, S Matsuhashi, Y Nagare, D Carpenter, R Matsuda.
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