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Ireland player ratings vs Japan | Autumn Nations Series

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Ireland were in rampant form in their Autumn Nations Series opener, taking less than 20 minutes to blow asunder Japan and put the result beyond the grasp of the visitors with an impressively slick start. Three tries were posted at that juncture and there was no let-up, Andy Farrell’s side going on to lead 29-0 at the internal and then 41-0 early in the second half before winning 60-5 and gaining clinical nine-try revenge against the team that had ambushed them at the 2019 World Cup 26 months ago. Here are the RugbyPass Ireland player ratings from a below capacity but very noisy Lansdowne Road:


The statement recruit of the Andy Farrell era, this was his 14th successive start and he continued to look the part. Was the first player to take a jab at the Japanese defence with a dash on halfway and while his involvement was largely limited on the ball after that, his concentration didn’t wane. His 50:22 set up the stadium lifting try for Sexton early in the second half.

Just his second Test start in 2021, he showed Farrell what Ireland had been missing without him as he came within a whisker of clinching a first-half try hat-trick just 27 minutes in. Before that, he had looked supreme in racing onto an 11th-minute kick through to score and he followed that with a pacy finish eight minutes later. Solid in the air, too, judging by a catch in traffic between his scores. Will be annoyed he bit in when it came to trying to shut down Japan’s try on 57 minutes, but he didn’t let it overly upset him as he went on to claim his hat-trick when gathering another kick through on 74 minutes.

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This was just his seventh appearance in the 18-game Farrell tenure and his susceptibility to injury had limited his availability. Right now he needs a consistent run in the team and what he showed here suggested he can potentially have an Autumn Nations Series to remember. He bloomed late in the opening period, making a ball-dislodging defensive read and within minutes of that, he was powering through contact to give Jamison Gibson-Park a 34th-minute assist. Showed that power again late in the second half when grabbing his 70th-minute try.

12. BUNDEE AKI – 7
With Robbie Henshaw unavailable through injury, the recent Lions pick was always going to be the go-to outside Johnny Sexton and aside from some edgy handling, he was powerful in the first-half carry as illustrated in the fourth-minute midfield burst that was integral in creating the game’s opening try. Continued to make a bruising impact and was dutifully rewarded when scoring his team’s sixth try on 55 minutes. Played on for another twelve minutes before Keith Earls was introduced.

11. JAMES LOWE – 8
Undoubted class at provincial level in a Leinster side that scores tries for fun, life at Test level had been rather different for the New Zealander who was dropped during the Six Nations. However, he finally showed what he can deliver with an embracing display. His kicking was probing, he was reliable under dropping ball and while his opening half ended with an overly ambitious pass into touch, he set Ireland on their way with a sweetly finished run-in on four minutes. Wasn’t defensively tested one-on-one, something that will need a debate before the XV is chosen to face the All Blacks as this was his major fallibility last season.


What can we say about one of the greatest ever Irish sportsmen who has now become just the seventh Irishman to earn 100 caps for his country? He ran out at the Aviva Stadium on his own pre-game to rightly take the acclaim of the supporters and he went on to show he still has what it takes to lead a team around the park and orchestrate. His performance did begin with a loose pass and there was later a penalty for no release at a ruck but he was positively influential overall. His acceleration ignited the move for the second try and he had no trouble getting stuck in at the age of 36, even clambering into some ruck clear-outs. Had the stadium on its feet with his 48th-minute try. Departed to thunderous applause 14 minutes later for Joey Carbery.

Came into this series opener streets ahead of Conor Murray in terms of provincial form given that the fleeting 2021 Lions skipper has only made one Munster teamsheet so far, but we needed to see the Kiwi finally come of age at this level. This we certainly did as he was exemplary, creating Ireland’s opening three tries with a pair of slick passes and an intelligent kick in behind and he rightly capped his first-half exploits by scoring himself. Held sway until the 58th minute when Murray was introduced but will surely now start next weekend against the All Blacks.

A selection that would have seriously bemused Dave Kilcoyne, the starting loosehead in four of Ireland’s last five games. Porter had spent his entire 37-Test career before Saturday knocking about at tighthead but he has re-emerged this season as a Leinster loosehead and his selection, allied to Cian Healy getting chosen on the bench, did for Kilcoyne. Porter regularly sought out the ball, his early efforts personified by a meaty carry inside his 22 on nine minutes. Will be disappointed he was penalised at a 31st-minute scrum for hinging. Made amends with an early second-half penalty win at the ruck. Played until the 55th minute when the entire front row was hooked with the score at 41-0 to Ireland. Replacement Cian Healy went on to grab the ninth and final

A player who had started in just five of his 13 appearances, the time is ripe for him to start making this position his own and he did take an encouraging first step forward in this series opener. Was busy around the park and will be pleased with his set-piece contribution before stepping aside to allow his Leinster colleague Dan Sheehan to make his Test debut.


His enduring world-class status was the reason why Porter has swapped sides at the scrum and he more than played his part in this demolition, quick hands and some hard-yard carries helping to subdue the Japanese when the game was there to be won. Disappointingly knocked-on with the line at the mercy late on the opening half but the first-choice Lions prop, but his surge and link with Porter was the spark that ignited the move for Aki’s 55th minute try before he exited to a cheer of approval.

Unlike Furlong and Jack Conan who had every reason to smile, Beirne was another Irish Lions pick who would have returned from South Africa feeling he wasn’t given sufficient rope to impress by Warren Gatland. He is a flexible forward with a varied bag of tricks, be it ball-handling skills or being a breakdown nuisance. Gave way to Iain Henderson on 58.

Nursing the disappointment of his Lions squad snub, he looked to have an energetic pep restored to his step here as he led his forwards confidently and kept the Japanese in check with his breezy rapport with the referee. His lineout catch sparked the monster maul that sparked Ireland’s third try and while he was annoyed over the unpunished interference that saw a lineout stolen early in the second half near the try line, he gobbled up the next throw to ensure Sexton had his celebratory try-scoring moment when play was shifted back to the right.

Another player who could do with an injury-free run to highlight his potential to be a regular at this level. He will have enjoyed the part he played in a dominant back row combination where he tackled well and carried regularly where the gains were hardest won.

He was one of the players with a score to settle after what happened in Shizuoka 26 months ago and he made his presence felt here in ensuring the visiting back row wasn’t a factor. Very tidy in what he did and he exited on 51 minutes for Peter O’Mahony with his day’s work well done and Ireland an emphatic 36-0 ahead.

His barnstorming effort versus England eight months ago catapulted him into the Lions and he carried that form in this fixture where he needed to be alert to Japan’s bright training ground moves off the set-piece. He was industrious in helping to shut that mischief down and he was exuberant on the ball, carrying for huge gains and putting himself about the place in a dominant manner. Ended the game as the sponsor’s man of the match.



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