Jamie Joseph expects an emotional Ireland performance in tribute to their centurion captain Johnny Sexton against his Japan side.
The Brave Blossoms’ supremo predicts a traditional-type approach from Andy Farrell’s side, with plenty of kicking from Sexton and a focus on beating his attack-minded side by dominating the set-piece.
“What a wonderful player,” remarked Joseph of 36-year-old Sexton.
“He’s been a big part of the Irish success in recent years – certainly a big part when they beat the All Blacks.
“So a really experienced player and I just think our players are excited, it’s going to be his 100th Test match on the weekend and it will be a great occasion for our boys to be able to celebrate that as well.
“We’ve talked about it this week, we know it’s going to create a lot of emotion with the Irish boys and we know that they’re going to want to play for him and I just think that makes the challenge for us more intriguing.
“But we’ve got a certain way we play the game and nothing’s really going to change for us, so it’s just going to be a big occasion and I think it’s going to be a good experience for our boys.
“I’m sure the Irish guys would want Johnny to stay around. Time will tell, I guess.”
While Sexton makes his 100th Ireland appearance, it is also the first time he will face Japan.
But the Brave Blossoms will have no fear of Farrell’s side on the back of running Australia close last weekend, and more specifically pushing Ireland close in the summer after famously beating them in the World Cup they hosted in 2019.
The visitors are boosted by the return of dangerman Kotaro Matsushima for the clash. The Clermont speedster is named at full-back and is one of three changes made by Joseph.
“What he’s really good at is he has a great skill set around receiving and taking the high ball,” said the Kiwi.
“We’re expecting a lot of kicking from the Irish team and putting pressure on our back three. If we concede a lot of penalties then we’re in trouble.
“We’ve spoken about being more accurate on details of skills and decisions we make.
“We’re expecting a lot of contestable kicks from the Irish, it’s a trend in the way they play the game and we’ll have to deal with that part of the pressure.
“They’ve a very experienced forward pack and will target our set-piece, as did Australia. The majority of tier one teams really attack our scrum and lineout.
“So we’re expecting a tough battle up front. In the times we’ve been successful, we’ve done OK in the set piece.
“But if we can create enough opportunities when we have the ball, then we have exciting backs who can create and score tries.
“That’s always been the trend when we’ve played the better sides around the world – and we’re expecting nothing going into the Irish match.”
Joseph has also included Yu Tamura at out-half – the man who wore no 10 when Japan shocked Ireland at the World Cup two years ago. Tamura, 32, has 65 caps to his name, so is also very experienced.
The other switch sees Lomano Lemeki lose out to Dylan Riley on the wing.
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