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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 1 April, 2020


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Good morning, rugby fans! So, here we go then. The 2019 World Cup starts here, as hosts Japan face Russia in their Pool A opener in Tokyo to kickstart six glorious weeks of rugby goodness.

It may not be the most eyecatching game to start the tournament but this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, as Japan 2019 gets underway at the sold-out Tokyo Stadium.

The opening ceremony has just started and kick-off, at 11.45am Irish time, is edging ever closer. Stick with us throughout the morning as we bring you all the action as it happens. 

The waiting is over, the stage is set. The 2019 Rugby World Cup is here!

japan-v-russia-pool-a-2019-rugby-world-cup-tokyo-stadium Source: Ashley Western

japan-v-russia-pool-a-2019-rugby-world-cup-tokyo-stadium Source: Adam Davy

japan-v-russia-pool-a-2019-rugby-world-cup-tokyo-stadium Source: Ashley Western

japan-v-russia-pool-a-2019-rugby-world-cup-tokyo-stadium Source: Adam Davy

Away from this opening game, Joe Schmidt has named his team for Ireland’s clash with Scotland on Sunday. Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway get the nod in the back three with Rob Kearney and Keith Earls not risked.

Here is the latest from the Ireland camp in Yokohama:

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont and Japanese Prince Akishino have declared the tournament open.

japan-v-russia-pool-a-2019-rugby-world-cup-tokyo-stadium Bill Beaumont at the Tokyo Stadium. Source: Adam Davy

“I know that Japan will be the most welcoming of hosts. You are the best hosts,” Beaumont said in his opening speech.

None of this would be possible without a partnership and thanks to the crown prince, the government, the organising committee, the Japan RFU, the host cities, the venues, and the thousands of volunteers.

“To the teams, this is your moment to shine on our greatest stage. I know you will inspire a new generation of fans and players by competing at your very best, promoting rugby’s values: integrity, respect, solidarity, discipline and passion.

The waiting is over, the stage is set. It’s now over to the teams, the fans and Japan to make this the best Rugby World Cup ever.

TEAM NEWS: Right, here are the starting XVs for this morning’s Pool A clash in Tokyo.

There’s bad news for the host nation, who must do without winger Kenki Fukuoka and back row Amanaki Mafi, who both miss out through injury.

As for Russia, there is an Irish link with former Blackrock College man Vasily Artemyev captaining the Bears, while former Leinster and Munster hooker Mark McDermott is assistant coach.

Japan: Tupou; Matsushima, Lafaele, Nakamura, Lemeki; Tamura, Nagare; Inagaki, Horie, Valu; Van der Walt, Moore; Leitch, Labuschagne, Himeno.

Replacements: Sakate, Nakajima, Ji-won, Thompson, Tui, Tanaka, Matsuda, Yamanaka.

Russia: Artemyev; Davydov, Ostroushko, Gerasimov, Golosnitskiy; Kushnarev, Dorofeev; Morozov, Selskii, Gotovtsev, Ostrikov, Fedotko, Zhivatov, Gadzhiev, Vavilin.

Replacements: Matveev, Polivalov, Bitiev, Garbuzov, Sychev, Perov, Gaisin, Sozonov.

This game is of course from Ireland’s pool, with Japan heavy favourites to get their campaign up and running with a big win here. Russia have lost heavily to Jersey Reds and Connacht during the warm-ups and could be in for a damaging couple of weeks in what is their second World Cup appearance. 

Tomorrow, there is a mouth-watering line-up of games as the tournament starts in earnest, with that clash between the All Blacks and South Africa top of the bill.


  • Japan v Russia, Pool A [11.45am]


  • Australia v Fiji, Pool D [5.45am]
  • France v Argentina, Pool C [8.15am]
  • New Zealand v South Africa, Pool B [10.45am]


  • Italy v Namibia, Pool B [6.15am]
  • Ireland v Scotland, Pool A [8.45am]
  • England v Tonga, Pool C [11.15am].

The teams are out in Tokyo and we’re set for the anthems. Kick-off is imminent! 

Flag 1Mins

KICK OFF! Conditions are ideal in Tokyo and referee Nigel Owens has been given the green light and the 2019 Rugby World Cup is underway. 


1 mins – Really positive start from Russia, who earn clean ball off a solid first lineout and they’re applying some early territorial pressure. Japan are offside and we’re going back for the penalty, which is kicked into touch. 


2 mins – Big call from Russia there as they turn down the shot at goal and then they lose the lineout. 


3 mins – A very nervy start for Japan, as Ya Tamura is charged down by Russian scrum-half Dorofeev as he attempted to clear from the in-goal area, but he just can’t dive on the loose ball before it goes dead. 

Flag 5Mins

5 mins — TRY! Japan 0-7 Russia (Golosnitskiy)

Oh my word. This has been a disastrous start for the hosts as fullback Tupou makes an absolute mess under the high ball and Golosnitskiy is there to pounce for the first try of the World Cup. 


8 mins – Well, we weren’t expecting this. Japan have made a series of horrendous errors and Russia took advantage of the third gift they were given inside the opening minutes. Tokyo is stunned. 


10 mins – A frenetic start but Japan have started to settle and they’ve got a five-metre lineout here as Joseph’s side look for an instant reply. 

Flag 14Mins

12 mins — TRY! Japan 5-7 Russia (Matsushima)

That’s much more like it! Superb hands and two insane offloads — the first from Lafaele was out of this world — create the space for Matsushima to cross on this near side. Tamura is unable to add the extras but that will give Japan huge confidence. 


20 mins – It’s all very fast and loose at the moment. Japan seem intent on kicking the ball away every time they get it, which seems bizarre when they’re so dangerous with ball in hand. 


24 mins – There have been plenty of handling errors inside the opening quarter and Russia have brought huge physicality and intensity in defence, causing frustration for Japan. Lyn Jones must be delighted with his side’s start to this game.


25 mins – Russia again soak up the pressure and a brilliant piece of work from Tagir Gadzhiev on the counter-ruck allows his side to break out and force Japan back into their own 22. 


28 mins – And Russia can play too. A delightful chip over the top sets Davydov away and a couple of offloads later, they’re within striking distance. Jones’ side have been very impressive so far. 


30 mins – The Japanese handling has been abysmal so far and being used to the humidity and conditions was supposed to be one of their advantages coming into this tournament.


33 mins – The Japanese fullback Tupou is having a nightmare under the high ball and as he grasses another, Joe Schmidt must be watching on with great interest from nearby Yokohama. 


35 mins – Japan think they’re over for Matsushima’s second try in this near corner after another passage of superb offloading, but after Nigel Owens checks the grounding with the TMO, the officials determine that the winger didn’t ground it cleanly as he knocked on under pressure from Artemyev. Brilliant try-saving tackle from the Russian captain.


38 mins – Sustained period of pressure for Japan as they hammer away at the Russian line. The Bears are holding firm but they’re having to get through a huge amount of work and you feel it’s only a matter of time before the hosts break through. 

Flag 39Mins

39 mins — TRY! Japan 12-7 Russia (Matsushima)

And there it is as Japan’s patience is rewarded. The hosts are always looking to get it wide and they suck Russia in, before Matsushima darts over for his second after another gorgeous offload.

Flag 41Mins

Half-time! Japan 12-7 Russia

And that’s half-time. A frenetic, end-to-end first 40 minutes of rugby in Tokyo and the host nation lead at the break thanks to a Matsushima double. Russia have been valiant in defence and are still very much in this. 


What did you make of that first half?

kirill-golosnitskiy-celebrates-scoring-their-first-try-with-vasily-artemyev Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

yutaka-nagare Source: Craig Mercer/INPHO

dimitry-gerasimov Source: Craig Mercer/INPHO


The teams are back out there. Jamie Joseph will have been bitterly disappointed with his side’s first-half performance and although they lead, Japan will need to be much, much better in this second 40. 


KICK OFF! And we’re back underway in Tokyo. 


42 mins – Japan have been much more direct since the restart as they look to suck Russia in and create space for their dangerous runners out wide. 


44 mins — Penalty! Japan 15-7 Russia (Tamura)

Japan opt to take their points on this occasion as Tamura knocks over the game’s first penalty. Japan lead by eight.


46 mins — TRY! Japan 20-7 Russia (Labuschagne)

A try out of absolutely nothing and Japan are pulling clear. Great work from Labuschagne as he rips the ball from Ostrikov in the tackle and then the flanker shows his pace and power to streak clear and go over for the home side’s third try. 


53 mins – Japan are firmly on top now but Russia have responded well to the concession of that third try and are probing five metres out here. They have a penalty advantage as the hosts come piling through and Nigel Owens brings it back. 


56 mins – Russia opt for the five-metre scrum and the forwards give them a solid platform to strike. It’s a bit messy but the Bears retain possession before they concede the penalty inches out from the line. A big chance gone.


60 mins – Russia have stuck to their task admirably and this time they’re going to take the points after winning a penalty in front of the sticks. This to make it a 10-point game with 20 minutes left on the clock…


61 mins — Penalty! Japan 20-10 Russia (Kushnarev)

And the Russian out-half makes no mistake from in front of the posts. 


63 mins — Penalty! Japan 23-10 Russia (Tamura)

Instant response from Japan as Tamura strikes that one a lot sweeter off the tee. 


68 mins – Russia need two converted tries in the final 12 minutes in Tokyo, while also keeping Japan out at the other end. They’re blowing a bit now though. 

Flag 70Mins

69 mins — TRY! Japan 30-10 Russia (Matsushima)

And that’s game, set and match — and it’s a hat-trick for Matsushima. Russia are flagging and a woeful clearing kick gives the hosts time and space to exploit down the right, with their flying winger doing the rest. 

Flag 83Mins

Full-time! Japan 30-10 Russia 

It wasn’t vintage Japan but the hosts get the job done and they’re up and running at the World Cup. A Matsushima hat-trick lights up the opening night in Tokyo, but credit to Russia who fought valiantly throughout. 

That’s all from us for now, but Murray Kinsella’s report from the Tokyo Stadium will be online shortly, while we’ll be back early tomorrow for Argentina against France and the small matter of New Zealand’s showdown with South Africa. Until then, goodbye!

About the author:

Ryan Bailey


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