Ireland gave Japan a brutal reality check as they crushed the Asian champions 50-22 on Saturday in the second of their three-match summer tour.
Joe Schmidt’s second-string side ran in seven tries in a clinical performance despite the lingering effects of jet-lag and blazing sunshine in Shizuoka, on Japan’s Pacific coast.
“The conditions were slightly less hot than we thought they were going to be,” the New Zealander told reporters.
“We were here yesterday for the captain’s run and it was searingly hot. It made for a really good game — we managed to control a lot of the first half on the back of a strong scrum.”
With the bulk of Ireland’s usual starting line-up on British and Irish Lions duty in New Zealand, a fresh crop of hungry young players tore into Japan from the start.
Keith Earls burst clear as Ireland drew first blood on 10 minutes and, with Heiichiro Ito sin-binned, Dan Leavy barged over twice before Jack Conan also crossed for the tourists to stretch their lead to 31-3 at half-time.
The Irish, who arrived in Japan this week after thrashing the United States 55-19 in New Jersey, added further tries through Conan’s second, Garry Ringrose and the effervescent Earls again after the interval.
Japan’s “Brave Blossoms”, who ground out a 33-21 home win over Romania last week, looked bereft of ideas in a dress rehearsal for the 2019 World Cup, when they face Ireland in the pool stage as tournament hosts.
Ryuji Noguchi finally crossed the try line on the hour-mark and late efforts from Kenki Fukuoka and Yutaka Nagare offered only crumbs of comfort for Japan, who get another crack at the Irish in Tokyo next week.
Ireland, meanwhile, have some minor injury concerns before their final tour match with Jackson, stand-in skipper Rhys Ruddock and Simon Zebo all picking up knocks.
“I don’t think there’s anything serious,” said Schmidt. “Luke McGrath got a poke in the eye, the rest of them are really bumps and bruises.”
Japan have never beaten Ireland and the last time they met before Saturday was in 2005.
They have made real progress since then, shedding their tag as World Cup pushovers by winning three games at the 2015 edition under Eddie Jones, including a stunning upset of South Africa.
But Asia’s top side never seriously threatened Ireland, and further ill discipline is likely to cause concern for head coach Jamie Joseph.
“We can’t win big games of rugby with 14 men,” growled the former All Black. “I felt that we just weren’t desperate enough.”
“It’s really disappointing,” he said. “We have to tighten up and improve for the next game.
“Ireland are a very physical team, which is also an area we need to compete better in as we build toward the 2019 World Cup.”
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