Beauden Barrett Asia’s first Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan

Beauden Barrett Asia’s first Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan

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The first Rugby World Cup in Asia kicked off Friday at a packed Tokyo Stadium, as the game seeks to tap into a new fanbase beyond its traditional heartlands in Europe and the southern hemisphere.

A sea of fans cheered as Russian fly-half Yury Kushnarev got the first game underway against hosts Japan in Pool A, the opening act of the six-week, 48-game tournament.

Earlier, at the opening ceremony, children representing the 20 competing teams belted out the World Rugby anthem “World in Union” before former All Black skipper Richie McCaw brought in the glittering Webb Ellis Cup.

Prince Akishino officially declared the tournament open, with World Rugby chief Bill Beaumont saying: “This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for… We can all be very proud tonight. You have made history.”

The tournament, which culminates on November 2, promises to be one of the most open in history, with several teams considered capable of denying New Zealand an unprecedented third straight title.

Organisers hope stars such as All Black Beauden Barrett, Irela

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