All eyes were on Ireland as they looked to enact some revenge on Japan for their 19-12 defeat in the World Cup in their last meeting.
With a youthful squad, thanks to several British and Irish Lions call-ups as well as the decision to leave players like Cian Healy, Keith Earls and Johnny Sexton out, the focus heading into the game would have been building towards the next World Cup in France.
One key player that needed a big performance was James Ryan, who had been overlooked by Lions head coach Warren Gatland after Alun Wyn Jones was injured in the build up to the tour in South Africa.
Another focus was on hopeful Sexton successor Joey Carbery, who played in his first international test for Ireland since the World Cup quarter final against New Zealand.
While Ireland finished off strongly, the first half was rife with errors by the Irish, allowing Japan to stay in the match, before ultimately falling short by eight points.
Ireland player ratings
Dave Kilcoyne 6.5/10
Kicoyne and Finlay Bealham had some major shoes to fill, with Andrew Porter, Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong all out of the squad. While the scrum was the strongest of the Irish setpieces, Kilcoyne was not the powerful ball carrier that was needed to bully the Japanese for most of the match.
Ronan Kelleher 6/10
The Irish lineout struggled in the first half, with Kelleher overthrowing a few balls, and otherwise not finding his jumpers. He was a strong presence on the pitch otherwise, but this would not be his favourite performance in the green jersey, particularly after spending time in the Lions camp.
Finlay Bealham 7/10
Like Kilcoyne, Bealham did well to fill in for the missing props from an Irish perspective, but was slightly lacking in other areas of the pitch. He scored a powerful try, but as with the rest of the side, he will be hoping for a better performance next week.
Ultan Dillan 6/10
The Irish lineout cracked in the first half, and it showed that Ireland were missing some of their tall timber in that regard. While he did a lot of the unseen work off the ball, Dillan will be wanting to make more of an impact with ball in hand next weekend.
James Ryan 6/10
Ryan needed a massive performance against Japan, particularly in the physical areas of the pitch. While the lineout misfired in the first half, it was the lack of really impactful, powerful carries that gives Ryan a par score against Japan.
Peter O’Mahony 6.25/10
O'Mahony would have liked to have put a marker down physically against Japan, and for the majority of the game he was not able to put that into practice. His efforts in defence rewarded him with a turnover, however, with just 24 metres gained, O'Mahony would want to add more to his carries when Ireland take on the USA.
Josh van der Flier 7/10
Van der Flier was the man of the match on the day for a reason; he was the most impactful forward on the day, getting involved in the hidden work, and making the big hits that were asked of him too.
Caelan Doris 6.5/10
Doris gave some physicality to an Irish side that struggled to outmuscle their historically smaller opponents. He made 39 metres, most of them in the dark corners of the pitch, but it was on defence where he made himself known, effecting three turnovers and only missing one of his tackles.
Jamison Gibson Park 7/10
Gibson Park was quick to most breakdowns, and made a good number of metres sniping from the back of the ruck. He put in a brilliant skip pass for Jacob Stockdale's try, and was looking much more in control of the game than he did a few months ago.
Joey Carbery 7/10
In his first start for Ireland since before the last World Cup, Carbery put his hand up as the natural successor for Johnny Sexton in the 10 jersey. He only missed one of his kicks, and he bossed the game well, particularly in the second half, from the flyhalf position.
Jacob Stockdale 6.5/10
Stockdale struggled to get into the game, with very little ball heading his way. When he did get his hands on the ball, he did well to score in the corner and made a good number of metres from his limited opportunities.
Stuart McCloskey 7/10
McCloskey and Farrell made for a physical partnership in the centres, with McCloskey doing a lot more of the hard yards, freeing up Farrell outside him. His defensive effort was solid, and he got a brilliant try for his efforts as well.
Chris Farrell 7/10
Farrell, like McCloskey added some power to the flashy Ireland backline, and his crash-ball style try was the epitome of his efforts on the day. While absolutely none of the players in a green jersey would say that they had a great match all round, Farrell and Van der Flier could argue that they had a good enough one.
Jordan Larmour 5/10
Larmour was taken off injured after around 30 minutes, when Ireland were struggling to keep ball in hand and looked to be on the back foot. While he did not do a whole lot wrong, he was not able to add much to the game for his 30 minutes.
Hugo Keenan 7/10
Keenan looked strong with ball in hand and was constantly looking for work from the back. While he was bowled over by Tim Lafaele in the process of him attempting to score a try, the try was ultimately ruled out because of a forward pass, and Keenan's defence improved throughout.
Notable replacement: Shane Daly 6.5/10
Daly came on for Larmour and slowly began to make an impact, injecting pace into the line and looking for work. As Ireland began to grow into the game, so too did Daly's involvement in the attack.
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