Winning Margin: Pick: Ireland by 21-30 points – 10/3
Ireland are back in action early on Saturday morning as they take on Japan in the second of their World Cup Pool games. The handicap in this tie is currently set at Ireland -21, but we are in more of a confident mood following Ireland’s team announcement.
The same pack that demolished Scotland gets the go-ahead to do untold damage once more, while the addition of Keith Earls makes Ireland a try-scoring threat from all angles of the field.
Earls has recorded eight World Cup tries, the most for any player in history representing Ireland, overtaking Brian O’Driscoll at the last World Cup.
When you factor in that Ireland have won all six encounters against Japan since 1991 by more than 20 points, then we think that a winning margin of between 21 and 30 points is more of a shout.
First Try Scorer: Keith Earls – 7/1
I love this market as it brings out the clairvoyant in us all. Last weekend we went for Rory Best as first try scorer, but we missed out by a few minutes behind James Ryan. I won’t hold it against him though, as he is considerably bigger than me.
This weekend, we are thinking that Ireland will once more use their forward prowess to set an early platform for their back-line to attack off of.
Japan conceded their only try from an up and under versus Russia, so they will be expecting an aerial assault. They also saw the power of Ireland’s maul, so they will be expecting that too.
What they will be unaware of though is the kicking and passing, just short of the defensive line, threats that Jack Carty brings. Keith Earls is the best Irish winger at coming inside and looking for work from his 10. The Limerick flier will be on the shoulder of Carty from start to finish, while the former Lion will also be an option for cross-field and grubber kicks, that are all part of the Connacht out-half’s repertoire.
For those reasons, I am tipping Keith Earls as Ireland’s and the game’s first try scorer.
Man of the Match: Garry Ringrose – 18/1
A lot will be made of Japan’s ability to keep the ball in play during this game. Most sides average around 35-40 minutes of game time, while Japan are chasing the dream of reaching the 50-minute mark.
If that is the case, Ireland will be in for a real battle in the heat of Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa. When looking at the Man of the match market, we need to take into consideration the conditions, the pace of the game, the chance of the player being substituted early (front rows) and how they have fared, if ever, against Japan.
Taking all these criteria into mind, Garry Ringrose at 18/1 jumps out at me. The Leinster 13 is not going to be taken off for tactical reasons, he will be well able for the pace of the game, while he was excellent on both sides of the ball against Scotland.
Ringrose also starred in Ireland’s 50-22 win over Japan back in 2017.
The centre gave an almost perfect performance in defence against the Scots. With the weather set to be better, with the ball to be in play more and with the Irish forwards to be even more dominant, Ringrose should make hay in this one.