Rugby World Cup 2019: Hosts Japan admit to nerves ahead of opener against Russia

Japan halfback Yutaka Nagare admits there are plenty of nerves in the Brave Blossoms' squad before the opening match of the Rugby World Cup against Russia.

As the team went through their final paces at Tokyo Stadium, the excitement and tension was palpable, with four years of planning for Jamie Joseph's side reaching its final stage.

Friday's match, which opens the first tournament held outside the game's traditional heartlands, is expected to draw a record domestic television audience for a Rugby World Cup fixture.

The pressure is on for Japan as hosts, even though they are heavy favourites for the clash against lowly ranked Russia.

"So many media have come today," said Nagare. "It's going to be a match that's going to get a lot of attention. 

"I'll be nervous, but this is a dream match, so I hope to enjoy and play with confidence."

Nagare's role as tone-setter for the Brave Blossoms will be crucial, as they look to play a high-tempo game, while Russia hope to dominate the forwards battle. 

"On game day, I think I'll be nervous, but I hope to communicate as best I can with the other players." 

Japan captain Michael Leitch echoed  Nagare's comments.

"I'm so nervous, I've been making all sorts of mistakes in training. There's so many people and so many cameras, but I'm very proud to be part of the World Cup and to be captain of the Japan rugby team."

Joseph, who earned 20 caps for New Zealand, before also playing for Japan at the 1999 World Cup, knows the experience within his coaching staff will be key to keeping a lid on the players' nerves.

He can call upon former Highlanders head coach Tony Brown, currently with Japan as attack coach, as well as a swathe of experienced players in the squad.

"It's always a challenge [to manage nerves]," Brown said. "We have got quite an experienced group around our leadership, with Leitch, Luke Thompson and Fumiaki Tanaka.

"Those guys have got the team under control around nerves and they understand what they have to do."

Japan: 1-Keita Inagaki, 2-Shota Horie, 3-Asaeli Ai Valu, 4-Wimpie van der Walt, 5-James Moore, 6-Michael Leitch (c), 7-Pieter Labuschagne, 8-Kazuki Himeno, 9-Yutaka Nagare, 10-Yu Tamura, 11-Lomano Lava Lemeki, 12-Ryoto Nakamura, 13-Timothy Lafaele,14-Kotaro Matsushima, 15-William Tupou

Reserves: 16-Atsushi Sakate, 17-Isileli Nakajima, 18-Koo Ji-won, 19-Luke Thompson, 20-Hendrik Tui, 21-Fumiaki Tanaka, 22-Rikiya Matsuda, 23-Ryohei Yamanaka

Russia: 1-Valery Morozov, 2-Stanislav Selskii, 3-Kirill Gotovtsev, 4-Andrey Ostrikov 5-Bogdan Fedotko, 6-Vitaly Zhivatov, 7-Tagir Gadzhiev, 8-Nikita Vavilin, 9-Vasily Dorofeev, 10-Yury Kushnarev, 11-Kirill Golosnitskiy, 12-Dmitry Gerasimov, 13-Vladimir Ostroushko, 14-German Davydov, 15-Vasily Artemyev (c)

Reserves: 16-Evgeny Matveev, 17-Andrei Polivalov, 18-Azamat Bitiev, 19-Andrey Garbuzov, 20-Anton Sychev, 21-Dmitry Perov, 22-Ramil Gaisin, 23-Vladislav Sozonov


Join Newshub for live updates of Japan v Russia from 10:45pm Friday


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