Sunday 19 November 2017

Ireland want to end season on a high in Japan

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt with Quinn Roux during squad training at Ichikawa City, Chiba, Japan. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt with Quinn Roux during squad training at Ichikawa City, Chiba, Japan. Photo: Sportsfile

You can imagine how the Munster men who missed out for The Lions and for Ireland are still stewing in regret over how the season ended.

They couldn't close out the PRO12 League final at the national stadium.

The same goes for the Leinster men in the same position as they were also completely outplayed by The Scarlets in the semi-final.

Moving beyond that, the pain must be even more acute for Joey Carbery, who made it as far as the United States, but no further.

The 21-year-old's season came to an unsatisfying end when getting injured during his least impressive performance of the season in New Jersey.

There was no second chance to make a better impression, no new and wonderful experience of touring through a unique culture in Japan

Anyway, the point is the last game of the season is the one that lingers longest in the memory bank.

The last thing Ireland want to do is to follow two comprehensive victories over the US Eagles and Japan by taking a step backwards in Tokyo on Saturday.

"You are only judged by your last game," said scrum coach Greg Feek.

"You get to this point of the year and the last thing you want to do is have a dip."

This is where the professionalism of the environment contributes towards keeping the players focussed on what lies ahead.

"As long as we prepare well and look to win the small moments in our training and in the game, and have that quality there, then, hopefully, the result will look after itself."

The entire Ireland squad trained in the Shining Arcs rugby club in Tokyo yesterday.

The slight injury concerns over scrum-half Luke McGrath, prop Finlay Bealham and flanker Dan Leavy have all faded.

"We are working on our core roles and taking some rhythm from last week," added Feek.

"We are also trying to work on, I suppose, some repairs and, hopefully, we can improve our performance which we always want to do."


There are a number of selections which could have greater ramifications for next season.

For example, the gap is narrowing from Kieran Marmion to Leinster nine McGrath for the right to back-up Conor Murray .

Flankers Josh van der Flier and Leavy have benefited from one test match each.

The evidence of the recent history of Ireland selection weighs this one-on-one in favour of the former.

Despite this, the improvement of Leavy this season has made this a real 50-50 choice between two fine internationals.

It will also be informative to see which of James Ryan or Kieran Treadwell makes the bench.

There could even be a case for one breaking into the starting line-up as the experienced Devin Toner has nothing to prove at this level.

Coach Joe Schmidt is expected to pick from a full squad tomorrow.

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