Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has said he is surprised by the inclusion of Jack Carty in Ireland’s starting XV to face the hosts in their second World Cup game on Saturday.
Johnny Sexton picked up a quad injury against Scotland and so Carty will make only his second Test start while the fully-recovered Joey Carbery takes his place on the Irish bench.
With the 27-year-old still relatively inexperienced on the international stage, Joseph has said that his side must put him under pressure, though he doesn’t expect the absence of Sexton to have too much of an impact.
“I don’t think we’re the sort of team that can afford to be worried about whether Johnny Sexton is playing or not.
“The quality of the team or players, you don’t get to be number one in the world with one or two quality players.
“While that is a surprise, it doesn’t change anything that we need to do.
“There’s a lot less experience without him, but I remember playing my first Test match, it’s going to be an exciting time and he’s going to go out and play very well unless we can put him under pressure.”
The New Zealand native maintains that his side “will need to play the best game of their lives” in order to be successful at Shizuoka Stadium.
However, Joseph has taken the bold move of dropping Japan’s captain Michael Leitch for the showdown and instead has put his faith in South-African born Pieter Labuschagne.
The head coach insists that they will need the experience of Leitch from the bench while he backs Labuschagne as a “natural leader”.
“What I believe around the game, in terms of our bench, we’ve got to have an impact if we’re going to be in a position to win the match it’s going to come down to the last five or 10 minutes and we’ll need clear leadership.
“Michael has had an injury all year, he’s only played four or five games, and he’s a very key player. But we have a lot of quality loose-forwards and in-form players.
“So we have in-form players playing really well, and experienced players coming on. So as a coach, I get to have both things.
“What I expect from him openside flanker around the ball. He doesn’t speak Japanese he speaks English but so does the referee. His leadership is natural, his work around the game is outstanding.
“I’ve been impressed with him as a leader in the last two years at the Sunwolves. And he is respected by the players, which is key.”
Japan’s tighthead prop Yusuke Kizu stirred the pot earlier this week when he suggested that Cian Healy scrummages illegally. While Joseph insists that the comments came from a player inexperienced with media, he did not disagree with his prop.
“First thing, Kizu is a young man, probably his first media experience, so that would be the first thing around Kizusan.
“We’re coming up against a very strong scrum, yes, at times they are illegal, but at all times they are a very strong scrum.
“We know that’s a difficult part of the game, but we’ve really improved our scrum and lineout recently. And it’s an area we’ve been focusing on all week.”
Japan team v Ireland:
1. Keita Inagaki
2. Shota Horie
3. Jiwon Koo
4. Luke Thompson
5. James Moore
6. Kazuki Himeno
7. Pieter Labuschagne (capt.)
8. Amanaki Lelei Mafi
9. Yutaka Nagare
10. Yu Tamura
11. William Tupou
12. Ryoto Nakamura
13. Timothy Lafaele
14. Kotaro Matsushima
15. Ryohei Yamanaka
16. Atsushi Sakate
17. Isileli Nakajima
18. Asaeli Ai Valu
19. Wimpie van der Walt
20. Michael Leitch
21. Fumiaki Tanaka
22. Rikiya Matsuda
23. Lomano Lava Lemeki