4 Nov 2019

Japan's Rugby World Cup a great success

9:13 am on 4 November 2019

After 45 matches and six weeks of action across Japan, the Rugby World Cup came to a close over the weekend.

Local fans support both sides in Yokohama before England v South Africa, Final, Rugby World Cup 2019 at International Stadium Yokohama, Japan.

Japanese rugby fans Photo: PHOTOSPORT

All Blacks fans didn't get everything they wanted, but Asia's first Rugby World Cup has undoubtedly been a hit.

Record attendances, record local TV audiences and packed fanzones, despite skepticism about the sport's interest levels in Japan.

All those taking part raved about how they were hosted, including All Blacks captain Kieran Read.

"From the first time we set foot off the plane into Japan we've had so much support from the Japanese people.

"Adidas have run out of the jerseys twice in Japan I think, so it's fantastic to see.

"I'm looking forward to coming back here and I hope this game just continues to grow."

But Read and his team didn't get what they came for, denied a third consecutive crown thanks to England's enormous performance in the semifinals.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had two explanations for the deflating defeat.

"We just chose the wrong day to have a bad day.

"We had an opponent who were hungry and had a lot of pain from the previous tournament.

"It's not a coincedence that if you go back through World Cup history [a lot] of teams who have suffered adversity at a previous tournament have come out and won the next one."

England, though, had a bad day of their own in the final.

Codie Taylor and Kieran Read at the end of the RWC semi-final loss to England.

Codie Taylor and Kieran Read Photo: PHOTOSPORT

South Africa monstered the English to join the All Blacks in winning their third World Cup.

The Springboks first black captain Siya Kolisi lifted the trophy, and had a heartfelt message to a country where issues still linger from the apartheid era.

"We know we come from different races, different backgrounds and we came together with one goal.

"We wanted to achieve it and I really hope we've done that for South Africa. To show that we can pull together if we want to achieve something."

The other on-field success story came from the hosts.

Japan become the first Asian country to reach the tournament's knockout stages with upsets over Ireland and Scotland, and thrilled fans with their fast and frenetic style of play.

England coach Eddie Jones, who coached Japan to a shock win over South Africa at the last World Cup, said the Brave Blossoms symbolised a closing gap between tier one and two nations.

"The game of rugby has grown over this tournament.

"We now have another serious rugby nation and I'm sure Japan's going to push that influence into Asia, so the game has grown."

Along with Japan reaching the semifinals, there was another first at this World Cup when Typhoon Hagibis caused unprecedented match cancellations.

That included New Zealand's pool game against Italy, but with the death toll standing at 88, the right calls were made.

It helped put the All Blacks result into perspective.

2019 Rugby World Cup Final, South Africa's Siya Kolisi lifts The Webb Ellis Trophy

Springboks win Photo: PHOTOSPORT

But it didn't mean Kiwi fans weren't gutted, after a promising first-up win over South Africa and a quarterfinal thumping of Ireland.

Victory over Wales to claim bronze at least allowed a winning finish, and a winning farewell for Hansen, Read and several other departing veterans.

As far as Hansen was concerned, they were all heading out the door of a team with a bright future ahead of it.

"That's probably for other people to say, but I'm pretty proud of what we've done in the time.

"Like a player, your job as a coach is to leave [the job] better than you found it and I think we're in pretty good nick."

The All Blacks squad arrives home tomorrow morning, with the appointment of Hansen's replacement expected to be the next order of business.

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