It will be a milestone moment for Johnny Sexton in Dublin on Saturday
Ireland v Japan Preview
The Ireland captain has enjoyed an incredible international career, spanning 12 years to date after he won his first cap in 2009. The 36-year-old has won three Six Nations titles and featured at three World Cups. He has also been selected for two British & Irish Lions tours.
Sexton said: “The ability to bounce back is something that I’d like to say I’d be proud of. In my career I’ve felt like I’ve had a lot of brilliant moments. Winning trophies. All those things, all those special memories.
“I’ve also had a hell of a lot of low points as well, which have always driven me. If you want to be a good role model for kids looking in, don’t give up and always try to bounce back. That’s what I’d like to think people will see when they see me.”
The match will be a tight one if their recent fixtures are anything to go by. Ireland beat Japan 39-31 in July, but it was the Brave Blossoms who came out on top when the two sides met in the pool stage of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Here is all you need to know with our Ireland v Japan preview.
What’s the big team news?
Farrell’s starting XV contains 12 Leinster players. At half-back, Sexton partners Jamison Gibson Park, who gets the nod over Conor Murray.
Hugo Keenan continues to impress his coaches as he starts at full-back for the 14th consecutive Test while Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki team up in the centre as Robbie Henshaw continues his hamstring rehab.
There is plenty of experience on the bench in Peter O’Mahony, Iain Henderson and Cian Healy while hooker Dan Sheehan will be hoping to win his first cap from the bench.
For Japan, Pieter Labuschagne has taken the captaincy reins from Michael Leitch.
Kotaro Matsushima, who became a household name after his efforts at RWC 2019, starts at full-back, Yutaka Nagare is at scrum-half and wing Dylan Riley has been named in the run-on XV for the first time.
What have the coaches said?
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said: “The way that Johnny (Sexton) has started the season as the in-form ten. If Johnny is healthy and competing and playing at the top of his game, we want people to knock him off his perch.
“He is a one-in-a-generation player. How many of those are about? How many of those are coming through? It’s pretty rare in any sport. I think that says it all.”
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph: “The Irish have a very experienced forward pack and they’re going to look to target our set-piece, both our scrum and lineout. When we’ve been successful in the past, we’ve done well with our set-piece, so this will be crucial on Saturday.
“If we can create enough opportunities when we have the ball, then we’ve got some very exciting backs that can create, and score tries.
“We’re expecting the Irish to target us with a lot of contestable kicks, so we’ve selected a back three that we feel are best placed to handle that aspect of the Irish game.”
What time does Ireland v Japan kick-off and is it on TV?
The match will kick off at 1pm on Saturday 6 November at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Georgian Nika Amashukeli is referee for the match with Damon Murphy and Pierre Brousset the assistants and Eric Gauzins the TMO.
Channel 4 (UK) and RTE (Republic of Ireland) will show the game live.
Related: Autumn Nations Series TV coverage
What are the line-ups?
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Low; Johnny Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Keith Earls.
Japan: Kotaro Matsushima; Dylan Riley, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita; Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare; Keita Inagaki, Atsushi Sakate, Koo Ji-won, Jack Cornelsen, James Moore, Ben Gunter, Pieter Labuschagne (captain), Kazuki Himeno.
Replacements: Yusuke Niwai, Craig Millar, Asaeli Ai Valu, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Tevita Tatafu, Naoto Saito, Rikiya Matsuda, Ryohei Yamanaka.
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