Japan v Ireland second Test preview
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 23/06/17 1:20pm
Ireland face Japan in the second of two Tests on Saturday, aiming to build on their 50-22 victory in Shizuoka last week.
With 11 players away on British and Irish Lions duty and Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Donnacha Ryan and Sean Cronin not touring, coach Joe Schmidt has so far given out seven Test debuts and three first Test starts.
Leinster trio Andrew Porter, James Ryan and Rory O'Loughlin, Ulster duo Kieran Treadwell and Jacob Stockdale, Munster's Rory Scannell and Connacht hooker Dave Heffernan have made their bow this summer against the USA and Japan, while Ulster-bound scrum-half John Cooney is in line to make his first appearance in green off the bench this weekend.
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First starts have also been handed out on tour to scrum-half Luke McGrath, winger Andrew Conway, flanker Dan Leavy, centre Scannell and wing Stockdale, with second-row Treadwell and Leinster hooker James Tracy set to make their first ever starts in Tokyo on Saturday.
In total, Schmidt has made six changes to the XV which ran seven tries past Japan at Ecopa Stadium last time out, with Luke Marshall, Kieran Marmion, Josh van der Flier, Tracey, Stockdale and Treadwell all coming into the startling line-up.
Niall Scannell and brother Rory drop to the bench, while McGrath, Leavy and Simon Zebo are not risked due to injury. Quinn Roux drops out of the matchday 23 for James Ryan.
Rhys Ruddock will again captain the side from blindside flanker on his 16th cap, and with Japan having made eight changes to the side comprehensively beaten last week, he expects a very different battle ahead for his inexperienced team.
"We saw our performance last week as being very good. Certainly, aspects of it were really good and really positive," the Leinster flanker said.
"We know realistically that Japan have a lot of growth. They way they finished the game was so strong and some of the players they have coming in will add a lot more as well.
"If Japan have the performance we feel they can deliver tomorrow, we'll have a more realistic gauge of where we are as a group.
"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."
Peter O'Mahony was named as captain for the Lions' first Test against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday, live on Sky Sports, and Ruddock also reserved praise the Irish contingent touring New Zealand.
"We're all obviously very good pals with those guys and have a lot of respect for them having played with them in the provinces or for Ireland," Ruddock added.
"It was pretty special to see those guys in the squad and even more so in the Test squad as well. For Pete it's a massive honour and we all think he's such a deserving character, such a good leader.
"He captained me at under-20 level and he's a pretty special guy in terms of his leadership qualities so we were delighted to see that decision as well."
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Meanwhile, for Japan, Shota Horie and Fumiaki Tanaka drop to the bench, while Shintaro Ishihara, Yusuke Niwai, Takuma Asahara, veteran lock Luke Thompson and Shuhei Matsuhashi are recalled, with Yutaka Nagare and Jumpei Ogura forming a new half-back pairing.
Will Tupou is suspended and fellow centres Derek Carpenter and Timothy Lafaele are unavailable through injury, meaning Yu Tamura and Kotaro Matsushima have been selected in a new-look midfield. Exciting wing Akihito Yamada also returns to the starting line-up.
Ireland: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Kieran Marmion; 1 Cian Healy, 2 James Tracy, 3 John Ryan, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 5 Devin Toner, 6 Rhys Ruddock (c), 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 Jack Conan.
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 James Ryan, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Tiernan O'Halloran.
Japan: 15 Ryuji Noguchi, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Kotaro Matsushima, 12 Yu Tamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Jumpei Ogura, 9 Yutaka Nagare; 1 Shintaro Ishihara, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 3 Takuma Asahara, 4 Luke Thompson, 5 Uwe Helu, 6 Michael Leitch (c), 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Takayuki Watanabe, 19. Kotaro Yatabe, 20. Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21. Fumiaki Tanaka, 22. Rikiya Matsuda, 23. Ryohei Yamanaka.