Japan vs Ireland team news: Johnny Sexton left out as Peter O’Mahony starts against Rugby World Cup hosts

Jack Carty starts at fly-half while O’Mahony remains at blindside flanker despite failing an HIA in last weekend’s win over Scotland as Joe Schmidt reveals he did not suffer a concussion

Jack de Menezes
Thursday 26 September 2019 05:58 BST
Rugby World Cup 2019 in numbers

Johnny Sexton has been left out of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup clash with Japan after failing to recover from a thigh injury in time for the Pool B encounter, with Jack Carty starting at fly-half.

Sexton picked up a thigh injury during the 27-3 victory over Scotland, handing over the kicking duties to scrum-half Conor Murray as a result, and after sitting out training on Tuesday, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has elected not to risk the Leinster out-half against the tournament hosts.

Instead, Carty will start in a side that shows 12 of the same side who began against the Scots, though while Peter O’Mahony is retained, Bundee Aki is replaced by Chris Farrell despite both O’Mahony and Aki coming through the return-to-play protocols successfully following head injuries. With Sexton left out completely, Joey Carbery will cover fly-half from the bench.

"Johnny's never happy to be left out,” said Schmidt. “Johnny's never happy about being left out, he's always looking to play, but he had a good hit-out against Scotland, played through 55 minutes and got a bit of mileage under his belt there.

"We thought about his security off the bench but we also have a lot of time for Joey and wanted to get him involved as well. It just means we take the pressure off Johnny this week.

"Jack's very calm, he doesn't get ruffled easily, he doesn't get distracted by an error he might make, or people trying to put pressure on him. So he stays in the zone very well.”

Schmidt also revealed that O’Mahony did not suffer a concussion despite failing his Head Injury Assessment against Scotland, with a breakdown in communication to blame as the team’s medical staff were also dealing with Aki’s HIA at the time. Nevertheless, Jack Conan had been slated to start against the Brave Blossoms, but a minor foot injury has ruled the Leinster back row out of the clash.

"Pete was mad keen to play, he only played that 25 minutes and unfortunately I think we might have got Pete back out there but we had two HIAs at the same time," said Schmidt.

"And therefore the communication was not as smooth as it normally is.

"He flew through his HIA two and HIA three which confirms to us that he didn't have a concussion. The HIA process is a precautionary process, so that anyone who has a suspected concussion is removed from the field, it doesn't mean they have had a concussion.

"So there's no elevated risk, we don't believe, in selecting Pete; and we've got a super medical staff.

Sexton has been left out of Ireland's Rugby World Cup clash with Japan
Sexton has been left out of Ireland's Rugby World Cup clash with Japan (Getty)

"With Jack Conan, someone just stood on his foot. He is absolutely fine. But it meant that he was sore in training, he didn't train fully.

"Again it's a case of being confident in the squad, and offering an opportunity, and I'm pretty sure Jack will be fine to train tomorrow, but again we rolled our sleeves up today and worked pretty hard so we wanted to get that team to have the chance to play."

All three changes come in the back line, with Farrell starting alongside Garry Ringrose in the centre, Keith Earls replacing Andrew Conway on the wing and Rob Kearney restored to full-back to replace Jordan Larmour, having recovered from the hamstring injury that ruled him out of last Sunday’s clash.

Ireland made a winning start to their campaign with a 27-3 win over Scotland
Ireland made a winning start to their campaign with a 27-3 win over Scotland (Getty)

Schmidt though has no concerns about the abilities of his key players to come straight back into the squad, with Sexton joined by Robbie Henshaw in missing out as the centre continues to rehab a hamstring injury.

“Johnny is the type of the player who can come in without much game time,” said Schmidt. “The same goes for Rob and Robbie. I have coached Johnny for nearly 10 years. I am not concerned about him. We have to manage our squad."

The pack remains the same to the one that beat Scotland, meaning Rory Best captains the side for the 36th time, pulling him level with Keith Wood in second on the all-time list behind Brian O’Driscoll’s tally of 83. Best played all 80 minutes against Scotland, but Schmidt has elected to stick with the Ulster hooker in an effort to seal a victory that would leave the Irish needing to beat Russia and Samoa to secure top spot in Pool A.

Ireland team to face Japan

Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Chris Farrell, Jacob Stockdale; Jack Carty, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, David Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.

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