The Rugby World Cup explodes into life!

The tournament has lift-off, as Japan bring off the shock result of rugby history. The smallest team in the event beat the biggest – the massive Springboks.

Last weekend’s extraordinary victory against South Africa made an absolute mockery of Japan’s status as the only side in the history of the World Cup to concede 1,000 points. The application, dedication and sheer skill that shone through their performance simply willed South Africa out of the game. As any Japanese fan will tell you, if you’re going to wait 24 years to claim a scalp, you might as well make it a big one – and they don’t come much bigger than South Africa!

Japan, it appears, have proved that they are no longer easy to beat. To understand what an extraordinary achievement this is, we need only to recall that their average margin of defeat in seven previous tournaments was 48 points…

Yet, there was absolutely no fluke about this. Japan were easily and gloriously the better side. Anything other than a victory in those closing moments when they trailed by three points and attacked with a cool desperation would have been a travesty. They had two chances to kick penalties in those epic last minutes and a draw would have been magnificent, but to their eternal credit and honour, they went for the win with a driven lineout and scrum. Phew…

This weekend’s big game has to be England v Wales at Twickenham on Saturday. It will be their most important clash in the 134 years that they have spent playing each other, with all of the nationalistic fervour that such contests generate.

They met in the semi-finals of the 1987 World Cup, but that was when the World Cup was a fledgling competition and, by comparison, feeble. They met in the quarter-finals in 2003, but even that never felt as mammoth an occasion as they face on Saturday. This is because both teams are in the Pool of Death, which also contains Australia, Uruguay and Fiji. Whoever loses on Saturday will face a horrible task even to escape the Group and qualify for the quarter-finals.

If England do not improve significantly they will lose and enter the throes of a lingering, grim departure from the competition they are hosting. If England rise in glory, it will be because of panic, the tearing up of strategy, or lack of it, and the wondrous support of a Twickenham crowd in full voice…

You can watch England v Wales live on UK TV at a venue near you. Kick off is on Saturday September 26th at 9 p.m. Don’t miss it!

About Richard Lawson

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