Ireland ready for Japan

Click to follow

reports from Bloemfontein

The Irish are looking forward to getting out of Bloemfontein tomorrow. They have already been here three days and they will treasure little of it apart from, they hope, a victory over Japan.

The town is hardly overloaded with entertainment, so their preoccupation has been cinema and, well, more cinema. As Phil Danaher said yesterday: "You see more films in a place like this than you ever do with your wife."

The manner of the defeat by the All Blacks that day has, if anything, been a confidence boost to the Irish - it was certainly not the demoraliser it threatened to be - and Danaher, who only joined the side on Monday morning after full-back Jim Staples broke his hand, goes straight in as a replacement for a team which has eight changes and is clearly intended to give a rest to key players before the probable group decider with Wales on Sunday.

The Irish management, meanwhile, is busy making the sort of respectful noises that are usually dished out to underdogs. "Of course the Japanese are a threat to us," Noel Murphy, the team manager, said. "They are well- organised, well-structured, have a lot of variation and dominated in certain areas against Wales."

Nick Popplewell takes over the captaincy today, however, and there is little chance that, in his first game in charge, he will let Ireland slip up against a side slaughtered 57-10 by Wales.

Other key changes in the Irish side are the inclusion at prop of Paul Wallace. He makes his debut and joins his brother, Richard, who plays on the wing. Those with the best chance of claiming a place in the first- choice line-up are Niall Hogan, the scrum-half, and Paul Burke, his stand- off.

The Japanese have made two changes to Saturday's defeated line-up and field the side that beat Romania 34-21 four weeks ago. Masanori Takuri comes in at prop and Yoshihito Yoshida, who scored one of the three tries against Ireland when Japan lost 32-16 in the last World Cup, returns on the left wing. Yoshida will also take over the place kicking.

Japan's crowd pleaser is Masami Horikoshi, the scrum-half. The smallest man in the tournament says he is not afraid of anyone. The Irish have been warned.

IRELAND (v Japan, Bloemfontein, today): C O'Shea (Lansdowne); R Wallace (Garryowen), B Mullin (Blackrock Coll), M Field (Malone), S Geoghegan (Bath); P Burke (Cork Constitution), N Hogan (Terenure Coll); N Popplewell (Wasps, capt), K Wood (Garryowen), P Wallace (Blackrock Coll), D Tweed (Ballymena), N Francis (Old Belvedere), D Corkery (Cork Constitution), P Johns (Dungannon), E Halvey (Shannon). Replacements: P Danaher (Garryowen), E Elwood (Lansdowne), M Bradley (Constitution), A Foley (Shannon), G Halpin (London Irish), T Kingston (Dolphin).

JAPAN: T Matsuda (Toshiba Fuchu); L Oto (Daito Bunka University), A Yoshida, Y Motoki (both Kobe Steel), Y Yoshida (Isetan); S Hirao, M Horikoshi (both Kobe Steel); O Ota (NEC), M Kunda (Toshiba Fuchu, capt), M Takuri (Mitsubishi Motor Co), Y Sakuraba (Nippon Steel Kamaishi), B Ferguson (Hino Motor), H Kajihara (Katsunama), Sione Latu (Daito Bunka Univ), Sinali Latu (Sanyo Electric). Replacements: W Murata (Toshiba Fuchu), K Hirose (Kyoto Sangyo Univ), K Imaizumi (Suntory), E Hirotsu (Kobe Steel), K Takahashi (Toyota), K Izawa (Daito Bunka Univ).

Referee: S Neethling (SA).