Japan make history by beating Ireland in Shizuoka in Pool A of the World Cup


2019 Rugby World Cup: Japan 19-12 Ireland


Played – 8

Japan wins – 1

Ireland wins – 7

Did You Know?

  • This is Japan’s first-ever win over Ireland and it takes them to an all-time high of eighth in the world rankings.
  • Japan lock Luke Thompson, at 38 is the oldest player at the 2019 World Cup.
  • Ireland wing Keith Earls, who made his first appearance at RWC 2019 against Japan, holds the Ireland record for World Cup tries with eight.

Related: Rugby World Cup Fixtures

In a nutshell

First there was Brighton 2015. Now there’s Shizuoka 2019. Japan have done it again and shocked the world by beating Ireland.

The Irish looked in control for the first quarter, but after that it was all Japan – this victory was fully deserved and also more convincing than the one over South Africa four years ago.

Organised in defence and unpredictable in attack, they stopped Ireland from scoring any points after the 22nd minute and took advantage of Irish ill-discipline (the men in green conceded nine penalties) as well as presenting plenty of threats of their own with ball in hand.

It’s another historic victory for Japan and this is how they did it…

Garry Ringrose got the opening try after 14 minutes. Ireland clearly had a plan to target Lomano Lemeki – a late inclusion in the starting team after William Tupou was ruled out – and peppered his wing with kicks.

From one such kick, by Jack Carty, Ringrose, who had made ground in an earlier phase, leapt above his opponent, secured possession and touched down in the corner.

2019 Rugby World Cup: Ireland v Japan

Green for go: Garry Ringrose scores Ireland’s opening try (Getty Images)

Ireland’s second try came midway through the half. Ringrose was again involved in the build-up and following an up-and-under from Carty, Rob Kearney went over near the posts. Yet after Carty had converted, Ireland made no further impact on the scoreboard.

Japan were well in touch at 9-12 at half-time thanks to three Yu Tamura penalties, including a monster from 40 metres out.

They nearly scored a try before the break too, attacking from a scrum on halfway after an Irish restart had gone dead. They worked their way up to the Ireland 22 and Shota Horie put in a grubber kick behind for Lemeki only for it to roll into touch before the ball could be picked up.

While other teams have been clocking up the handling errors at an alarming rate during this World Cup – the conditions playing a huge part – Japan are able to work the ball wide fast with slick handling. Timothy Lafaele’s soft hands and cute passes are a particular standout.

That came to the fore in the second half as Japan dominated possession and territory in the third quarter. Ireland did have a few forays into the Japanese 22 but one of the highlights was seeing Kotaro Matsushima using his footwork to step Keith Earls and Peter O’Mahony as he ran the ball out from behind his own line.

The hosts kept building and the try eventually came through replacement winger Kenki Fukuoka, who wasn’t even meant to be playing in this match.

Ireland had gifted Japan a scrum ten metres out and the hosts took the opportunity, first making ground through hard runs from Lemeki and Kazuki Himeno, before the ball was spun wide and those aforementioned hands of Lafaele gave a swift take-and-give pass to Fukuoka, who went over in the corner unmarked to huge roars from the Shizuoka crowd.

On came the replacements for Ireland but little changed. Japan held back the Irish waves and capitalised on any errors or turnover opportunities. They worked their way back into the Irish half with more creative attacks, swinging the ball left and right, then they extended their lead with another Tamura penalty.

By this point, Ireland had Jordan Larmour in the centre and Luke McGrath on the wing due to injuries. They valiantly tried to get an equalising score but simply weren’t accurate enough.

When Fukuoka burst up the middle in the final few minutes and was brought down five metres out by Keith Earls, leading to a Japanese scrum, there was no way back.

Japan make history again – and now look set to make the quarter-finals for the first time.

Related: Rugby World Cup TV Coverage

Star man

Garry Ringrose was the pick of the bunch in the opening quarter, but after that the game was dominated by the Japanese players. Michael Leith made a huge impact when he came on after half an hour and the back three looked dangerous whenever they had the ball. We’ve mentioned Timothy Lafaele’s skill-set and Shota Horie was all over the pitch.

However, we’re giving the award to Kazuki Himeno, who got through a tremendous amount of work in both the tight and the loose, made ground whenever he had the ball and produced hugely important tackles.

2019 Rugby World Cup: Ireland v Japan

Eye fpr a gap: Kazuki Himeno looks to get past Ireland’s defence (Getty Images)

The Reaction

Japan captain Pieter Labuschagne: “On the field it was wave after wave coming at you. It took a special effort from everyone to get back in the line and get back up. Everyone knew exactly what we wanted to do and we just had to go out and do it. I’m really proud of everyone.”

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt: “First I’ll congratulate Japan for the energy and intensity and skill they brought tonight. They’re a big team and they played like a big team tonight and were very difficult to contain. They have a very good engine room and the back row were very effective. And the backs, across the board we found them a handful. They’ve got quality players and play a quality style.

“We controlled the first quarter pretty well, but the longer the game went on the more oxygen they got from penalties and the skill they showed.”

The Teams

Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka (Kenki Fukuoka 50); Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Lomano Lava Lemeki; Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare (Fumiaki Tanaka 57); Keita Inagaki (Isileli Nakajima 64), Shota Horie, Jiwon Koo (Asaeli Ai Valu 54), Luke Thompson (Wimpie van der Walt 64), James Moore, Kazuki Himeno, Pieter Labuschagne (captain), Amanaki Lelei Mafi (Michael Leitch 31).

Try: Fukuoka 60. Con: Tamura. Pens: Tamura 4.

Ireland: Rob Kearney (Luke McGrath 69); Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Chris Farrell (Jordan Larmour 61), Jacob Stockdale; Jack Carty (Joey Carbery 61), Conor Murray; Cian Healy (David Kilcoyne 46), Rory Best (captain, Sean Cronin 61), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter 46-55, 61), Iain Henderson (Tadhg Beirne 66), James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony (Rhys Ruddock 55), Josh Van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Tries: Ringrose 14, Kearney 21. Con: Carty.

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