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It’s finally here as the 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off with the hosts Japan facing Russia in Tokyo. Join The Roar from 8:45pm (AEST) for live scores and a live blog of the tournament opener at a sold-out ground.
This is a straight-forward task for Japan, at least on paper. They go in against Russia as heavy favourites.
Considering their opposition in Pool A – Ireland, Scotland, Russia and Samoa – they can afford no slip-ups if the want to reach the quarter-finals for the first time ever.
Points difference could come into it, so the Brave Blossoms will need to put a cricket score on the Russians.
They caused one of biggest shocks ever at the 2015 World Cup, when they beat South Africa, and they will be out to do the same on home soil.
Yu Tamara has been picked to start at fly-half and Luke Thompson is included on the bench. At the ripe old age of 38, Thompson could become the oldest player to represent Japan in the competition and the first to play in four World Cups.
Japan will be captained by the experienced forward Michael Leitch. They head into this game after a 41-7 loss to the Springboks in a warm-up match.
For Russia, they are lucky to be even at this World Cup. The only made it only after Romania were disqualified for fielding ineligible players.
Their warm-up form has been poor, with a series of defeats. They even lost to Jersey.
Russia’s coach Lyn Jones has named nine players in his World Cup squad who traveled to New Zealand for the global tournament in 2011.
These two countries have met six times since their first match in 2002. Japan have won five with Russia’s sole success coming in 2003.
Russia may have size in the forward pack but Japan will have the edge in speed and skill, with a much more experienced and talented talent pool to draw from.
Japan to win by 26 points.
Join The Roar from 8:45pm (AEST) for the play by play.
When: 8:45pm (AEST)
Where: Tokyo Stadium, Japan
TV: Fox Sports
Betting: Japan $1.02, Draw $66, Russia $33,
William Tupou, Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Lomano Lava Lemeki, Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare, Kazuki Himeno, Pieter Labuschagne, Michael Leitch (c), James Moore, Wimpie van der Walt, Asaeli Ai Valu, Shota Horie, Keita Inagaki.
Reserves: Atsushi Sakate, Isileli Nakajima, Jiwon Koo, Luke Thompson, Hendrik Tui, Fumiaki Tanaka, Rikiya Matsuda, Ryohei Yamanaka.
Vasily Artemyev (c), German Davydov, Vladimir Ostroushko, Dmitry Gerasimov, Kirill Golosnitskiy, Yury Kushnarev, Vasily Dorofeev, Nikita Vavilin, Tagir Gadzhiev, Vitaly Zhivatov, Bogdan Fedotko, Andrey Ostrikov, Kirill Gotovtsev, Stanislav Selskii, Valery Morozov.
Reserves: Evgeny Matveev, Andrei Polivalov, Azamat Bitiev, Andrey Garbuzov, Anton Sychev, Dmitry Perov, Ramil Gaisin, Vladislav Sozonov.