THIS was hardly the best preparation for what lies in store next week but you can only play what’s in front of you and that’s exactly what Leinster, sorry I mean Ireland, did on Saturday.
When you see 12 players from the one team starting on any international side, it either means you’re resources are shockingly poor as a country, or that the gap between the main team and all the rest is unsurmountable.
At the moment, Leinster are the kings of Ireland and we have no option but to pay homage to them and Leo Cullen should be very proud of the dynasty he has created.
At this moment in time, only a fool would bet against Leinster dominating the green jersey selection for many years to come and if we are, to be honest with ourselves Munster, Ulster and Connacht are a long way behind encompassing the kind of ruthless environment that has allowed Cullen’s players become masters of their own destiny.
Looking forward to the next World Cup I think it would be healthier if the contributors to the national side was a bit more even, but for now, it is what it is.
It is up to the others to bridge the gaps that have grown between Leinster and the rest.
Saturday’s test between Ireland and a nation that has captured the attention of the world by playing a brand of rugby that sometimes seems alien to us in the Northern Hemisphere was billed as a great opening test for Andy Farrell’s charges however, the final score certainly doesn’t reflect the kind of stern preparation that a side needs when their next game is against the mighty All Blacks.
I think it only fair to presume that most of us who watched this game would have believed that Japan might have offered a little bit more, but on this occasion, the brave Blossoms didn’t even fire a shot.
The modern game is very much about power and how fast you can recycle the ball, and when Irelands first up ball carriers found themselves grinding out some serious yardage in beyond the first line of the visitor’s defence, Jamison Gibson Park was allowed to play the kind of game that we all love to watch, and Park loves to play.
Park who was awarded the number nine jersey ahead of Conor Murray must have thought all his birthdays had come together as every time he approached a breakdown or a ruck, he found the ball gift wrapped with his name etched all over it and, to make his job even easier his next pass was to a player receiving the ball who’s throttle was fully open.
When you have players with the muscle mass and power that Andrew Porter, Tadhg Furlong, Bundee Aki and James Lowe all enjoy, there are not too many defenders on this planet that could win the initial impact.
Centurion, Johnny Sexton also benefited from his rampaging forwards dominance, and it was great for him to enjoy his momentous occasion in front of a nearly packed Aviva, a place he probably knows better than his own back garden.
Such was Ireland’s dominance Sexton didn’t really have to do a whole pile, but as normal he controlled proceedings like a great commander does his troops by keeping his forwards on the front foot and his strike runners in reserve until it was appropriate to deploy them.
It would have been great if Ireland had thrown complete caution to the wind after their third try albeit, you could visibly see that Andy Farrell and his coaching ticket had one eye firmly on the arrival of the men in black.
Just like the Irish forwards dominated the physical gain line contests, so too did the Irish backs in the aerial confrontations.
All of Ireland's back three had solid performances and dominated their opposing numbers when the ball was in the air. Andrew Conway’s haul of three tries must be independently applauded and he will surely keep his jersey for next week’s encounter.
Conway rarely has a bad game for Ireland or Munster and if Farrell is looking for consistency to build an attacking strategy around, he would do little wrong by using Conway as a starting point.
James Lowe also played well, but still needs to prove his international class on a consistent basis and who better to prove his worth against than the number one team in the world.
Ireland did all that was asked of them on this occasion, but the difference between Japan and the All Blacks is like comparing a thoroughbred racehorse to a three-legged donkey who is visually impaired.