In the nation’s capital Tokyo, hosts Japan got the ninth edition of the Rugby World Cup officially under way.
The opening ceremony combined the ancient with the modern, drawing on the Japanese culture to illustrate the passion and expectation the people of Japan have for the tournament.
Using the theme of a Japanese festival – the iconic Mount Fuji – took centre stage as the ceremony told the story of the mythical dawn of time, rugby’s origins and its arrival in Japan, and the development of the tournament into today’s global showpiece.
It was the duty of former New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, World Cup winner in 2011 and 2015, to present rugby’s biggest prize before Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino declared the tournament open – welcoming the World Cup to Asia for the first time.
On the field, the Brave Blossoms recorded their second win in World Cup history with a 30-10 victory over Russia.
It was the underdogs, Russia who crossed the whitewash first, capitalising on a nervous error by the Japanese.
But local fans didn’t have to wait too long for their team to respond as South African-born wing, Kotaro Matsushima, picked up their first five points a short while later.
Matsushima, the player of the match, scored again in the dying minutes of the opening half and Japan took a 12 -7 lead into the break.
Pieter Labuschagne, another Pretoria-born Japanese player, scored the third try, an individual effort following a fortunate intercept.
The Russians simply had no answer for Matsushima’s speed and finesse as he scored yet again towards the end of the match – his ninth try in seven Tests.
And that’s how it ended at the Tokyo Stadium – with the Japanese securing a surprisingly hard-fought 30-10 bonus point victory.