Day one at the Rugby World Cup: Just the start Japan were after

The 2019 Rugby World Cup kicked off with hosts Japan running out 30-10 winners against Russia at Tokyo Stadium.

Here, the PA news agency wraps up all the action from September 20 and takes a look at the next set of games.

Cherry Blossoms on song

Japan took centre-stage to launch a first World Cup in Asia with a resounding 30-10 victory over Russia, as Kotaro Matsushima ran in a hat-trick.

Russia, though, had earlier threatened to spoil the party – which had seen Japan supporters in their seats up to three hours before kick-off.

Winger Kirill Golosnitskiy scored the fastest try in the opening match of a Rugby World Cup to put the Russians ahead inside five minutes.

Japan, though, roared back with a double from Matsushima before half-time.

Flanker Pieter Labuschagne added a breakaway try soon after the restart, with Matsushima securing a bonus point when he completed his hat-trick 11 minutes from time.

Champagne moment

Kotaro Matsushima ran in a hat-trick of tries - the first Japan player to do so at the Rugby World Cup.
Kotaro Matsushima ran in a hat-trick of tries – the first Japan player to do so at the Rugby World Cup (Ashley Western/PA)

Matsushima – who had earlier been denied another try following a review by the TMO – touched down for the third time late in the match, after a kick from Russia had dropped in field.

The winger needed no second invitation as he galloped into the space on the right flank to complete a memorable opening night as the Japan crowd erupted again.

Stat attack

Russia had shown little sign of being swept away by the occasion following a colourful and vibrant opening ceremony with an early try to dampen the party atmosphere.

Golosnitskiy capitalised on hesitancy from Japan full-back William Tupou when collecting a high kick inside the 22 to drive over – and in doing so secured a bit of Rugby World Cup history.

Coming up

New Zealand v South Africa (Pool B, Yokohama)

Back-to-back reigning world champions New Zealand will launch the defence of the Webb Ellis Cup by taking on South Africa in Yokohama on Saturday.

However, the mighty All Blacks face a weight of exception and also suggestions they could be vulnerable for an upset in the Pool B opener.

Coach Steve Hansen, though, will be hoping his side can rise to the occasion and above the war of words with the Springboks – themselves on the receiving end of the seismic shock defeat by Japan in England four years ago.

Australia v Fiji (Pool D, Sapporo)

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will not underestimate the challenge of Fiji, who could yet offer a surprise or two of their own.

Captain Michael Hooper will lead the side, linking up with David Pocock in the back row, while number eight Isi Naisarani will be one of three Fiji-born starters in the Australia XV.

John McKee, though, hopes the Pacific Islanders can offer some unpredictability of their own and not let Australia have things all their own way.

France v Argentina (Pool C, Tokyo)

The clash between France and Argentina has gone somewhat under the radar given the other fixtures on the opening Saturday.

The three-time World Cup runners-up may not be the European heavyweights they once were, but Les Bleus could yet throw a spanner or two into the works if they progress through Pool C, which also includes England.

First, though, Jacques Brunel’s side have to take care of business against Argentina.

The Pumas would relish a repeat performance of when they shocked the then-tournament hosts 17-12 at the Stade de France in the opening game of the 2007 World Cup – and later also went on to beat beat Les Bleus again as they secured the bronze medal.

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