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Ireland forced into backline adjustments despite potential banana skin opposition

Joe Schmidt has made four changes to Ireland’s starting lineup for their game against tournament hosts Japan.

Despite the fact that Japan is viewed as one of the teams most capable of causing an upset, Schmidt’s hand has been forced by a number of niggles suffered by members of his back division.

As predicted, a number of experienced players have will sit out the match with the Brave Blossoms. Johnny Sexton, Bundee Aki, Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour have all been left out of the starting lineup for the Pool A clash on Saturday.

Their places will be taken by Jack Carty, Chris Farrell, Keith Earls and Rob Kearney.

Sexton and Aki are on the mend from minor niggles they suffered in the win against Scotland and will miss the game with Japan entirely. Larmour will cover the outside backs from the bench.

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On the plus side, Earls’ and Kearney’s returns mean that Schmidt is slowly getting back some of the players that were unavailable when the tournament kicked off.

There’s still no sign of centre Robbie Henshaw, who many feared would have to pull out early from the World Cup. It sounds like he could be due for a return in the very near future, however.

“He (Henshaw) was in training today. He’s done a lot of running today, came through that no problem,” said kicking coach Richie Murphy earlier in the week.

Despite the comfortable victory over the Scots, Murphy suggested there were plenty of work-ons for his team.

“There were definitely areas of our game we weren’t happy with,” Murphy said.

“We’ll address them internally and we’ll try and build that for Japan because we see this as another step up.

“Japan in Japan is a very difficult game. They want to play fast and loose, that’s what we expect, but they’ll be very well-organised in that. It will be up to us to try and implement our game plan on top of them.”

Ireland and Japan have faced off on five previous occasions, with the Shamrocks undefeated to date. The closest that Japan have ever come to pulling off a victory was in the two sides’ first-ever encounter when they fell 32-16 at the 1991 World Cup.

This weekend’s match at Shizuoka Stadium will kick off at 4:15PM JST.

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Gary Ringrose, Chris Farrell, Jacob Stockdale, Jack Carty, Connor Murray, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony, James Ryan, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best (c), Cian Healy. Res: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Rhys Ruddock, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.

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Ireland forced into backline adjustments despite potential banana skin opposition