Tokyo — A dominant display by Ireland’s forwards earned them an impressive bonus-point Rugby World Cup win over Celtic rivals Scotland on Sunday.
The emphatic 27-3 Pool A win underscored Ireland’s status as one of the favourites and sent out a message to southern hemisphere challengers New Zealand and Australia, who both won on Saturday.
World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton answered his critics after a worrying dip in form as Ireland shrugged off injuries to key players in their back line to seize the initiative in a tight group.
But it was the tight five forwards who broke Scotland’s resistance, with pushover tries in the first half from lock James Ryan, prop Tadhg Furlong and hooker Rory Best.
Scotland had lost six of the previous seven games against the Irish but scented an upset in Yokohama as coach Gregor Townsend named the most experienced Test team in Scottish rugby history with an astounding 630 caps in the starting XV.
But heavy rain in Yokohama hampered Scotland’s handling as their backs studded with British and Irish Lions failed to fire.
“I think we started really well. We were positive. We wanted to attack. Obviously with the conditions in the second half, it became more of an arm wrestle, but we know how good a team they are and we’re delighted with the win,” said skipper Best.
Sunday’s clash of the Celts in Yokohama followed an unconvincing 47-22 win by fellow Six Nations outfit Italy against Namibia, the lowest-ranked side in the competition. That match saw Italy’s talismanic captain Sergio Parisse make history as only the third man to play in five World Cups, but it was an error-strewn game to forget in at times torrential rain and fierce winds.