RUGBY: Ulster trio to head up Ireland midfield against Japan

Paddy Jackson
Paddy Jackson

Ulster lock Kieran Treadwell and Leinster hooker James Tracy have been handed their first Test starts for Ireland in Saturday’s rematch with Japan in Tokyo.

Tracy, who won his third cap as replacement during last weekend’s 50-22 victory over Japan in Shizuoka, and Treadwell, who made his debut off the bench last time out, have been given the chance to lay down a marker ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

Luke Marshall

Luke Marshall

Ulster-bound scrum-half John Cooney, who has had stints at Leinster and Connacht, is also poised to win his first cap off the bench.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt brought eight uncapped players on tour and seven of them - Andrew Porter, Dave Heffernan, James Ryan, Treadwell, Rory Scannell, Rory O’Loughlin and Jacob Stockdale - have seen game-time during the US and Japanese legs.

Now, Cooney is set to become the eight and final member of the touring squad to make his Test debut.

Dan Leavy, Luke McGrath and Simon Zebo were the only players not considered for selection for Ireland’s final game of the season.

Kieran Treadwell

Kieran Treadwell

“Dan Leavy sustained a cut and was very bruised from last weekend,” said Schmidt at Ireland’s team base in Tokyo.

“He is still recovering from last weekend. He will probably be OK for the weekend but we had some fresh guys who could come in and do the job.

“McGrath played 80 minutes last weekend also and caught an elbow in the eye. He should be fine as well but It’s precautionary. We felt the need to look after him this week.

“The other one is Simon Zebo. He trained fully on Tuesday but today there was still fluid on his knee and he wasn’t as comfortable as we would have liked at training, so we have decided to give him a rest.”

In all, Schmidt has made six changes to his startling line-up for the clash with the Brave Blossoms at Ajinomoto Stadium.

Zebo, Rory Scannell, McGrath, Niall Scannell, Quinn Roux and Leavy drop out of the starting line-up that won in Shizuoka.

Munster wing Andrew Conway shifts to full-back with Ulster flyer Stockdale, who scored on his Test debut in New Jersey, coming back into the team. Keith Earls, who set a new Ireland record with nine tries in a season last weekend, shifts to the ring wing to accommodate Stockdale.

Luke Marshall replaces Scannell, who will provide fly-half cover on the bench, at inside centre and will link up with the ever-present Garry Ringrose in midfield.

Kieran Marmion is reinstated at scrum-half and will partner Ulster number 10 Paddy Jackson at half-back.

Tracy comes in for Munster’s Scannell at hooker with Cian Healy and John Ryan once again anchoring the scrum.

Leinster lock Devin Toner is set to win his 50th cap alongside Treadwell in the engine room. Leavy, who bagged a brace in Shizuoka, is replaced by Leinster team-mate Josh van der Flier at openside flanker as skipper Rhys Ruddock and number eight Jack Conan hold onto their spots in the backrow.

Ireland team to play Japan in second Test:

Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Luke Marshall, Jacob Stockdale; Paddy Jackson, Kieran Marmion; Cian Healy, James Tracy, John Ryan; Kieran Treadwell, Devin Toner; Rhys Ruddock (c), Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Sean Reidy, John Cooney, Rory Scannell, Tiernan O’Halloran.