Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Jeers, Cheers and Plenty of Beers for England Fans! It's Been a Super Start to the Tournament but the Rugby Has Played a Small Part So Far

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Jeers, Cheers and Plenty of Beers for England Fans! It's Been a Super Start to the Tournament but the Rugby Has Played a Small Part So Far

Article excerpt

Byline: Will Macpherson Rugby Correspondent in Kobe

TO SAY the host nation is utterly gripped by its World Cup would be a great stretch but so far Japan is putting on one hell of a party.

Tokyo and Kobe are just too vast to get fully swept up in a tournament like this. But to be at a game is to experience palpable excitement, from supporters hailing from all corners of the rugby world. The sight of hundreds of Uruguayan fans celebrating their win over Fiji yesterday was particularly cool.

The rugby has been great but just a small part of the action.

Wearing a dull blue T-Shirt for Japan's opening-night win over Russia was to feel very left out: almost everyone was in the Brave Blossoms' red and white, with the stadium looking like a game of Where's Wally in reverse.

That first match was a special occasion. Now, the hosts are talking up their chances of victory over a strong Ireland team on Saturday. They will have to be a damn sight better than on Friday but stranger things have happened -- involving them in 2015 indeed.

As the 20 million people who tuned in to watch Japan against Scotland in the game after that win over South Africa in 2015 can attest, it will take one special day to get the nation right on board.

Japan have a wonderful schedule, with at least a week between each of their games, and a showdown with the Scots to end the whole pool stage.

Win that and a quarter-final in Tokyo with the All Blacks awaits. The All Blacks, by the way, have already beaten the nextbest team in the tournament despite only having 10 really sensational minutes. They were among the first teams to set a wonderful trend, the bowing to Japan fans.

Disappointments? There have been a few but nothing major. Getting in and out of labyrinthine train stops is tough, making Bank station feel like a single platform in a one-horse town. Every little logistical difficulty is far outweighed by positives, like fans being served beer at the seats. England fans in Sapporo looked particularly pleased with that! …

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