Read the full story on SportsLook - Japan Begins Rugby World Cup with a Big Win Over Chile
Japan, ranked 14th in the world, was able to secure a bonus point win over its 22nd-ranked opponent despite playing in a predictable manner throughout the encounter.
The match took place at Stadium de Toulouse in the south of France, which hasn't been spared from the late summer heatwave that has hit much of Europe. And the early afternoon (local time) kickoff meant that the game was played in scorching heat ― the mercury was at 32 C when the match started.
For Chile ― nicknamed Los Condores ― this was its first-ever Rugby World Cup match. The South Americans put in a determined and passionate showing, one which included several high quality moments.
At the highest level more consistency is required. The fact that Japan won so handily despite playing well below its best level illustrated this perfectly.
"Chile came with a really spirited performance, really hearty, tackled like demons, turned our ball over, really put us under pressure," Joseph said, according to The Associated Press. "We had to deal with that without losing confidence."
Japan's Lineup for Its Rugby World Cup Opener
Japan started with eight players who had represented it during the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Squad captain Kazuki Himeno had to withdraw on the morning of the match with a calf injury. He was replaced at number eight by lock Jack Cornelsen. Cornelsen's place in the second-row was filled by Amanaki Saumaki.
Yutaka Nagare captained Japan from scrum-half in Himeno's absence, while prop Keita Inagaki made his 50th appearance in his national jersey. Kotaro Matsushima, who played club rugby in France for Clermont Auvergne from 2020-22, started on the right wing instead of at fullback.
Mistakes and Poor Discipline Cost Chile After Fast Start
Despite the temperature, the match started at a blistering pace. Chile's fullback Inaki Ayarza broke into Japan territory and was supported by his scrum-half Marcelo Torrealba. Torrealba had the ball stripped, which caused chaos in Japan's defense. Fly-half Rodrigo Fernandez was on hand to kick the ball forward, gather and then dive over the line for the game's opening try.
With an early 7-0 lead, perhaps Chile dreamed of becoming the first team to win in its Rugby World Cup debut since Uruguay in 1999. On that day 24 years ago, Uruguay defeated Spain. Pablo Lemoine played for Uruguay on that occasion. Sunday, he was in the coaches' area in his capacity as Chile head coach.
Would Lemoine be involved in another famous World Cup first?
Almost instantly, Lemoine's Chile team was brought back to earth. From the kickoff, it coughed up possession and Japan took advantage. Lock Amato Fakatava identified a gap in Chile's defensive structure and ran in from 15 meters.
Chile's discipline then let it down. Prop Matias Dittus was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes for a late hit on opposite number Jiwon Gu. With a man advantage Japan scored its second try. Winger Jone Naikabula finishing from close range after a scrum.
Japan helped itself to a third try before halftime. This time Chile captain Martin Sigren was in the sin bin, he accidentally clashed heads with Matsushima. Fakatava helped himself to his second try of the afternoon, holding the ball in a maul after a lineout and breaking away on the blind side of Chile's defense to score easily.
Chile trailed 21-7 at halftime.
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Author: Colin Morrison
Morrison is a freelance sportswriter. Find his stories on SportsLook. Writing since 2016, Morrison's byline also appears on boxing website NYFights.com and multi-sports platform Spitballingpod.com. His main areas of interest are boxing, soccer, golf and rugby union. Morrison is from Scotland and can be found on X (formerly Twitter) @Morrie1981.