Japan opened their Rugby World Cup campaign with a 42-12 win over debutants Chile in front of a packed house at Stadium de Toulouse on Sept. 10.
Playing under a blazing afternoon sun, the Brave Blossoms put aside the pre-match loss of captain Kazuki Himeno with a calf injury to grind out the win.
But it was not easy going against a tough, resilient Chilean team who led the Pool D match early on, only for indiscipline to hurt their cause with two yellow cards.
“Chile came with a really spirited performance, really hearty, tackled like demons, turned our ball over, really put us under pressure,” said Japan coach Jamie Joseph. “To score 40 points in the end, that’s a big victory.”
Man of the match Amato Fakatava led the way for Japan with two tries, while also making 17 tackles from 18 attempts in another impressive test match display, all the more so given he nearly missed the tournament through injury.
“Today was pretty tough,” Fakatava said. “We expected Chile to come strong. It’s pretty hot but I am happy to be out there with the boys. My first World Cup … unbelievable. I don’t know how I made it here.”
Japan’s next opponent, on Sept. 17 in Nice, is England. (Kyodo)