Sean McMahon reporting from Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt cut a downcast figure when he spoke to the media in the aftermath of his side’s 19-12 loss to Japan.
Ireland, after the opening 25 minutes of this game, were shambolic and they completely lacked the control and penetration which was evident in the opening quarter of the game. Worryingly, they also lacked energy but what Schmidt was concerned with the most was how his side failed to register any points after the 22nd minute.
“The biggest disappointment was to score two tries in the first quarter and not to add to that is incredibly disappointing. To put ourselves in a couple of positions where we felt that we were close enough and putting real pressure on and we got quite close and then didn’t actually capitalise.
“We turned one over in the second half where it was very hard for us to get the ball placement. We were on top of the tackler and I thought that pretty tough but you’ve got to be tough enough to cope with these things and certainly, we’ve got to be better at what we’re doing and we’ve got to demonstrate that in five days’ time so we’re not going to get a lot of time to put anything together.”
When initially asked what his feeling were on the match, Schmidt diplomatically offered his congratulations to Japan before running his analytical eye over the 80 minutes.
“Firstly, I’d like to congratulate the Japanese for the energy, the intensity and the skill-level they brought to tonight’s game. They are a big team, they play big and they were very difficult to contain. I felt we probably controlled the first quarter pretty well, went 12-3 up with two tries scored and, you know, it’s probably exactly what we asked for.
“But the longer the game went on the more oxygen they got from penalties and from the skill they showed. And, you’ve got to commend them for that. It’s not the first time we’ve seen them do it, it’s not a surprise to us that they were incredibly tough to beat and the quality of Michael Leitch coming off the bench – he really added value as well when he came on, Yu Tamura and (Timothy) Lafaele got an arm-chair ride.
“We got penalised for a few offsides and then we became hesitant. Once we became hesitant we couldn’t really put the same pressure on them as they were putting on us.
“They got a real roll on, so it’s a tough defeat for us to take.”
Focus will now switch to Russia and Schmidt is expecting another tough battle.
“I think we’re doing an open session in Kobe on Tuesday and that will be the only training we have in the lead-up to Russia, who have already proved themselves to be very physical, very combative, very competitive.
“They stayed in the game a long time with the Japanese and that’s a measure of how competitive they can be and even in the Samoa game, while they lost that game, they actually had a lot of the game, a lot of the ball, and put Samoa under a lot of pressure so we’re anticipating another really tough game in five days’ time and we’re going to have to dust ourselves off and certainly perform better than we did here.”