Schmidt impressed by Japan progress

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is looking forward to taking on host nation Japan after being drawn alongside them in the World Cup pools.

The Irish join Japan, Scotland, the Europe 1 qualifiers and the Play-Off 1 winners in Pool A of the 2019 tournament, it has been confirmed.

Before that though Ireland and Japan will clash in two June Tests next month, with Schmidt impressed by what he's seen from them of late.

"I think the Japanese national team have really progressed in a short term, and even going back probably two or three years," he told Irish Rugby's website.

"I think June is going to be very tough for us. This draw today will spark a real interest because people will want an entree of what will be a main meal in two-and-a-bit years' time.

"I've got a lot of respect for Jamie Joseph – he's a scary man! I think he'll bring a real energy to the group. I know some of his coaching staff too. Together, they will be very, very effective in progressing the team further.

"I've been watching the Sunwolves play (in the Super Rugby competition) recently, I thought their win over the Bulls was super and some of their stand-out players have really come on further and further. I think June will be complicated for us and I think that's probably a good indication of what will come in two years' time as well."

He added on the prospect of facing Scotland: "We lost to Scotland recently, so it's a mixed bag (of a draw), but I think it's incredibly exciting to draw the host nation. I think the crowd, the enthusiasm and the interest in that game is going to be huge."

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