After four years of waiting, it is back, the Rugby World Cup 2019 kicks off on Friday with tournament hosts Japan featuring in a not so glamorous curtain-raiser against Russia.
Make no mistake, though, Japan, both on and off the field, mean business with this World Cup and there will certainly be a weight of expectation upon Jamie Joseph’s Cherry Blossoms this time around following their success at the 2015 edition of the competition.
Japan claimed three wins from four back in the Pool stages of the 2015 edition of the Rugby World Cup, most notably overturning South Africa 34-32 in their opening encounter, while Russia return to the global stage for a first appearance since 2011, having missed out on the last tournament in England and Wales.
In terms of the blockbuster games worth watching, this opening salvo probably doesn’t make the cut for the highlights reel, but Japan will be desperate to put on a show and make a flying start for their adoring home crowds.
A much more organised squad with an desire to play expansive, free-flowing rugby, Japan will be outright favourites against a Russian side whose sole aim will be to stifle and frustrate the Cherry Blossoms from playing with attacking flair.
After this opening night for the hosts to take centre stage, the real tussles begin on Saturday, with headline billing for New Zealand against South Africa.
Japan 11:45 Russia
Matches odds with Coral: Japan 1/100 Draw 100/1 Russia 25/1
Ben says: Japan win