Rugby Rugby World Cup sweeps into Asia for first time on a sea of red and white

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    Sam BruceESPN Associate Editor

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      Sam was brought up on long drives and the dusty fields of north-west New South Wales, where he developed his love of rugby from an early age. He joined ESPNscrum after a five-year stint heading up Fox Sports Australia’s digital rugby coverage.

TOKYO — It may have been a slow burn earlier in the week but any thought that the Rugby World Cup’s first foray into Asia wouldn’t be embraced by the people of Japan was blown away in a brilliant sea of red and white on Friday night.

It had started earlier in the day. With the turn of every corner about the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, the Brave Blossoms jerseys became more prominent. At the tournament megastore just across from Shinjuku station, they were sold out of the national team’s jersey. When you made your way to Tokyo Stadium later that day, it wasn’t hard to see why.

The Welsh and Scotland kits had also been big sellers, ESPN was told, while the sight of Springboks, All Blacks and Ireland kit were also common with those teams to take to the field over the weekend, so too the berets of the French who serenaded the evening peak-hour commuters with a rendition of Les Marseillaise.

The true spirit of tournament sport was on show as fans streamed up from Tobitakyu Station to the Tokyo Stadium. It may not be the walk from Twickenham Station to the home of English Rugby, the opening venue four years ago, but what it lacked in backyard barbecues it made up in cans of beer for sale and the sight of the stadium at last completely revealing itself at the top of a flight of stairs.

Russian fans had made the trip, probably not with any great expectation, yet they travelled in families and wore the names of their clubs from back home proudly.

A quite breathtaking opening ceremony got underway after the Tokyo autumn sun had disappeared to leave almost perfect

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