All you need to know about the opening match of the 2019 Rugby World Cup
Played – 7
Japan wins – 6
Russia wins – 1
Did You Know?
Kirill Golosnitskiy’s fifth-minute try is the fastest ever in an opening Rugby World Cup match. It’s also only the second time – after 1987 – that a try has delivered the first points rather than a penalty goal.
Related: Rugby World Cup Fixtures
In a nutshell
It was hardly a cracker to kick off Japan 2019 – long stoppages, numerous errors, little flow – but the hosts will be pleased to have got the win, 30-10, and the try bonus point.
Related: World Cup bonus points explained
The nerves were evident in the first few minutes for Japan, so much so that they gifted Russia a try. William Tupou failed to take a high ball in the 22 and it bounced into the grateful arms of Kirill Golosnitskiy, who ran over for a simple early score.
The tournament hosts led 12-7 by half-time; Kotaro Matsushima was the beneficiary of impressive offloading from his centres to cross twice (well, three times actually but one was rightly ruled out by the TMO for a knock-on).
Back-row Pieter Labuschagne gave his side some breathing room early in the second half as he ripped the ball in the tackle and broke clear for a try.
Russia captain Vasily Artemyev then played a part in Japan’s bonus-point try in the 69th minute. Collecting a kick near his touchline in the 22, he kicked it infield where Japan had numbers and were able to spread the ball wide, with Matsushima on hand to get his hat-trick.
You can watch Japan’s first try here…
Japan will need to improve ahead of their next match against Ireland. When the slick handling comes off they look dangerous, particularly given their speed, but there were too many errors in this game and they lacked composure under high balls and restarts – something Ireland will surely have noted.
Related: Rugby World Cup TV Coverage
For Russia, Tagir Gadzhiev was a real menace in attack and defence, while Vladimir Ostroushko showed decent touches in midfield. The Japan back row – Michael Leitch, Pieter Labuschagne and Kazuki Himeno – got through a lot of work but in a performance littered with errors, it has to be Kotaro Matsushima. The winger was clinical when given opportunities, used his pace to good effect and became the first Japan player to score a hat-trick at a Rugby World Cup. Job done!
Japan wing Kotaro Matsushima: “It is my first three tries as a Japanese player. We were able to connect with each other and the roar of the fans became our driving force.”
Russia captain Vasily Artemyev: “Everyone could see we were playing at the same intensity as Japan. We were pushing them to the edges and we were getting some dividends. Maybe we could have scored a couple more penalties if we went for it but we chose to apply the pressure through our set-piece, but unfortunately, we didn’t get the result we wanted.”
Japan: William Tupou (Ryohei Yamanaka 70); Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Lomano Lava Lemeki; Yu Tamura (Rikiya Matsuda 67), Yutaka Nagare (Fumiaki Tanaka 61); Keita Inagaki (Isileli Nakajima 55), Shota Horie (Atsushi Sakate 75), Asaeli Ai Valu (Jiwon Koo 55), Wimpie van der Walt (Luke Thompson 61), James Moore, Michael Leitch (captain, Hendrik Tui 70), Pieter Labuschagne, Kazuki Himeno.
Tries: Matsushima 12, 39, 69, Labuschagne 47. Cons: Tamura, Matsuda. Pens: Tamura 2.
Russia: Vasily Artemyev (captain); German Davydov, Vladimir Ostroushko, Dmitry Gerasimov (Vladislav Sozonov 67), Kirill Golosnitskiy; Yuri Kushnarev (Ramil Gaisin 66), Vasily Dorofeev (Dmitry Perov 33-40); Valery Morozov (Andrei Polivalov 66), Stanislav Selskii (Evgeny Matveev 66), Kirill Gotovtsev (Azamat Bitiev 67), Andrey Ostrikov, Bogdan Fedotko (Andrey Garbuzov 61), Vitaly Zhivatov (Anton Sychev 66), Tagir Gadzhiev, Nikita Vavilin.
Try: Golosnitskiy 5. Con: Kushnarev. Pen: Kushnarev.