TOKYO – Kotaro Matsushima became the first Japan player to score a hat-trick of tries at a World Cup on Friday, earning praise from his own coach and the opposing manager after the "Brave Blossoms" beat Russia in the tournament's opening match.
Matsushima, born in South Africa to a Zimbabwean father and a Japanese mother, was a bright spark for the World Cup hosts who wound up comfortable 30-10 winners despite looking shaky through large spells of the game.
While he can also play as a fullback, his attacking flair has blossomed as a winger and the team's reliance on their fleet-footed runner was evident on Friday.
All three of Matsushima's tries - he had a fourth ruled out after a TMO decision - were scored after the pacey winger received offloads from his team mates before leaving opponents for dead out wide.
"We gave him (Matsushima) room and he can finish. It was a good game for him tonight. When you play him, you close his space down and put fast players up against him...sounds quite simple," Russia's coach Lyn Jones said.