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Japan opens Rugby World Cup with victory over Russia


Japan’s wing Kotaro Matsushima (R) jumps for the ball during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Russia at the Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on September 20, 2019. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

Wing Kotaro Matsushima scored a hat-trick as hosts Japan got their World Cup campaign under way with a 30-10 victory against Russia.

Russia took an early lead through wing Kirill Golosnitskiy, but Matsushima replied for the hosts.

He grabbed his second to put Japan ahead just before half-time and Pieter Labuschagne broke away to add another after the break.

Matsushima then ran through to claim a four-try bonus point for his side.

Japan, in Pool A with Scotland, Ireland and Samoa, are aiming to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.


World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said before the tournament that “rugby mania” was going to captivate the nation and Japan’s comeback in front of a vociferous crowd gave the tournament an early boost.

In Shibuya, home to Tokyo’s famous crossing, there is only an occasional sign that a World Cup is taking place just an hour away.

But travelling to the stadium, the train filled with more and more Japan shirts while every metro stop and the nearest station to the venue was awash with red and white.

Once inside the near 50,000 capacity venue, supporters watched an opening ceremony like no other in rugby – reflecting the World Cup’s first visit to Asia – and cheered it on enthusiastically at every stage.

In 2015, Japan were the first team in history to win three World Cup games and miss out on the quarter-finals and coach Jamie Joseph has made it clear that their objective is to make it out of the pool stages this time around.

But they will be competing with Ireland, Scotland and Samoa for one of the top two spots in Pool A to achieve that goal and there will be no room for any more nervous starts.

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