Finn Russell 2019 Rugby World Cup: Japan make quarter-finals with sublime win over Scotland

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The tears began before kick-off. They fell during and just after a Japanese anthem haunting in its beauty and emotion. They continued during this most incredible of Rugby World Cup matches and they would have fallen for a long time afterwards as the Brave Blossoms sent them homeward to think again, as the opposition anthem famously says.

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This match between Japan and Scotland marks the end of the pool phase and start of the knockout matches and it feels like the World Cup has properly begun. Japan are in a quarter-final for the first time by virtue of finishing Pool A in first place. Their reward is a mouthwatering clash against South Africa. Ireland, whom Japan famously beat in Shizuoka a couple of weeks ago, will face the All Blacks in theirs on Saturday.

That’s another delicious prospect on several levels, but it can wait, as can the rest of the quarter-finals, because this effort by Kiwi coach Jamie Joseph, his countryman Michael Leitch and the rest of Japan’s squad to get to this point deserves to be celebrated to the fullest.

Had this match been called off due to Typhoon Hagibis, Scotland would have gone home burning with righteous anger and begun the process of lawyering up. Now they’re just going home, but they played their part – did they what.

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