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The 2019 Rugby World Cup finally gets underway this morning and you can follow live coverage of both the opening ceremony and Japan vs Russia below.
The spectacular opening ceremony at the Tokyo Stadium promises to “draw on deeply symbolic Japanese cultural references to illustrate the passion, expectation and excitement the people of Japan have for the tournament”. The events will begin with an exhibition flight by Blue Impulse, the aerobatics squadron of the Japanese Air Self Defence Force.
After that, the tournament will finally begin as host nation Japan take on relative rugby minnows Russia. You can follow live updates from Japan below:
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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Nigel Owens was ready to award it, but AR Nic Berry of Australia advised him to go upstairs.
Ooh – and rightly so! He’s just, and I mean just, lost control of the ball as he’s looked to slam it down.
No second try for Kotaro Matsushima. Ben Skeen chalks it off, and Russia will have a five-metre scrum.
There goes Lomano Lemeki! The former Olympic Sevens player is slight of frame but firm of charge, and brushes off a couple of tacklers, beating a third with his footwork for good measure to make excellent progress down the left.
Wide the ball is shifted, basketball alley-oop over the top for Matsushima…
And he’s scored! Or has he? TMO Ben Skeen will need to confirm…
Russia kick the ball into the Japanese half and it’s Michael Leitch getting back there, with the Brave Blossoms’ captain skipping past one tackler with a lovely step off his right boot.
The ball is shipped along the line to the right wing, where there’s a, surprise surprise, knock on!
At some point one of these teams is going to latch on to a loose pass or knock on and score a runaway try. Reckless abandon, mostly, with ball-in-hand, and the kicking has been pretty loose, too.
Japan work a simpler attacking pattern, making simple short passes, but then Timothy Lafaele tries to force something and the ball spills from his grasp as he hits the deck. Russia scrum, but they’ll have to wait to have it, because scrum-half Vasily Doropeev has taken a bang.
That’s better from Russia – a perfectly-weighted chip hops into the hands of Dmitry Gerasimov, who swiftly whips the ball onwards and there’s space on the right.
But the final pass needed to exploit that space never comes as a recovering tackler ties the ball up, and after three more phases there’s – you guessed it – a handling error. Japan clear to halfway. Copy and paste stuff, this.
If you wanted a case study of how the humidity in Japan might impact ball-handling throughout the tournament, this game is serving as an extreme example. Russia fumble again as they look to go wide, and Japan, too, as they look to counter from the back of it.
Russia somehow emerge with the ball as Japan lift their arms in protest 30 metres out, and through the defenders tracking back NIkita Vavilin charges before being hauled back.
But he pops the ball away to Vladimir Ostroushko, who weaves and wiggles his way further on and then toes ahead, with Japan doing well to get three men back to flop on the ball and clear.
Russia lineout on the Ja
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