TOKYO – Japan’s players spoke about being nervous ahead of their Rugby World Cup opener against Russia on Friday and some of their fears were realised in an error-strewn performance as Jamie Joseph’s side again struggled to contend with the high ball.
Japan ran out 30-10 winners against a fatigued opponent, but the tournament hosts did not look truly comfortable right from the kickoff as captain Michael Leitch failed to claim the ball and Russia earned an early lineout.
Flyhalf Yu Tamura had an early kick charged down, before fullback Will Tupou, who struggled all night under the bright lights of Tokyo Stadium, dropped a Russian kick, allowing Kirill Golosnitskiy to score the opening try of the tournament.
Although Japan, technically superior and much fitter than their opponents, clawed back control of the match they were still dogged by difficulties under the high ball.
Tupou in particular struggled and even hat-trick hero Kotaro Matsushima was guilty of stepping into touch catching a Russian clearance.