Japan's Kotaro Matsushima, left, fends off Russia's Vladislav Sozonov to score his third try of game. Photo: Jae Hong/AP Photo

TOKYO  Winger Kotaro Matsushima scored a hat-trick as Japan overcame a severe case of opening-night nerves to give the host nation a winning start to the Rugby World Cup with a 30-10 victory over a spirited Russia side on Friday.

The Russians, laid on as sacrificial lambs for the opening party, stunned the noisy crowd of 48,745 into silence when they pounced on a Japanese error and scored the tournament's first try through winger Kirill Golosnitskiy in the fourth minute.

Man of the Match Matsushima replied with Japan's first try seven minutes later but it was not until he went over for his second just before the break that the error-prone home side took the lead at 12-7.

Flanker Pieter Labuschagne added another try after the break and 12 minutes from time Matsushima got his third to secure the bonus point that might be key to Japan's hopes of advancing from Pool A, which also includes Ireland, Scotland and Samoa.

Reuters