Joe Schmidt makes six changes for Ireland's Tokyo mission
IRELAND'S preparations for Saturday’s opening Test against Japan have not been ideal, but head coach Joe Schmidt has backed his new-look side to rise to the challenge.
Having landed in Tokyo on Monday after a 20-hour flight from New York, Schmidt’s men have had to adapt to a new time zone as well as hot and humid conditions.
Schmidt has made six changes to the side which thrashed the US Eagles 55-19 in New Jersey with Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway, Rory Scannell, Paddy Jackson, Luke McGrath and Dan Leavy all coming into the starting line-up.
“Preparations have been brief, pretty brief,” said Schmidt.
“The work-rate in training today was really good because I think the players are very conscious that it is the only training we will get this week, so they wanted to make sure that they got as much clarity and got a bit of rhythm as best they could.
“It wasn’t perfect, and it seldom is, but I think we will learn from it and hopefully we will be a little more cohesive by the time we kick off on Saturday.”
Having handed five players their first caps in New Jersey, Schmidt has decided to shake things up again ahead of Saturday’s clash at Ecopa Stadium in Shizuoka.
Conway, Scannell and McGrath will all make their first Test starts in an Ireland shirt with Munster star Zebo starting at full-back having been named among the replacements last Saturday.
There is one change to the pack with powerful Leinster flanker Leavy replacing provincial team-mate Josh van der Flier at openside.
Ulster fly-half Jackson did not travel with the squad for their US leg of the summer tour but linked up with them in Tokyo on Monday.
Jackson will slot straight in at number 10 after Leinster’s Joey Carbery returned home having suffered an ankle injury.