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Russia Put Japan Under ‘Extreme Pressure’ But Lose Thrilling Opening Game in Rugby World Cup

South Africa-born Kotaro Matsushima scored three tries as hosts Japan overpowered a Russian team which put them under “extreme pressure” at times in the opening game of the Rugby World Cup on Friday, 20 September.

The Brave Blossoms were behind in Tokyo after five minutes but Matsushima - who has a Japanese father and a Zimbabwean mother - came to the rescue by scoring three of four tries as they ran out 30-10 winners.

​Japan’s New Zealand-born captain Michael Leitch said: "Straight from the kick off they put us under extreme pressure with their gameplan, they really tested us today.”

​Japan’s coach Jamie Joseph said: “The game showed that the boys were nervous. As I said before the game, there was a lot of expectation on the guys. I thought we had prepared well for that but it's not until you get out there that you realise how much pressure there is on the guys.”

He added: "But you really have to take your hat off to the Russia guys. They put us under a lot of pressure."

​Both teams walked out to a deafening roar from the crowd of 45,000, including the boom of traditional taiko drums.

​Kirill Golosnitskiy scored the simplest of tries after five minutes to put The Bears in the lead but Tupou, whose error had let in Russia, made amends in the 11th minute with a deft reverse pass for Matsushima to dive into the corner.

Russia were pressuring towards the end of the first half when Japan hit them on the break and Matsushima scored to put them 12-7 up at the break.

South Africa-born Pieter Labuschagne scored Japan's third try early in the second half but a Kushnarev penalty closed the deficit to 20-10.

​But late on Russia wilted and Matsushima completed his hat-trick.

​Japan, who once lost 145-17 to New Zealand, are a different proposition nowadays and will give Ireland a tough game in Shizuoka next weekend.

Russia’s next game is against Samoa on Tuesday, 24 September.

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