Rugby World Cup 2019: Japan's Kotaro Matsushima overcomes nerves to make history

Japan's Rugby World Cup hero Kotaro Matsushima says a lack of nerves was the catalyst for his history-making hat-trick against Russia on Friday.  

Matsushima's treble was the first hat-trick by a Japan player in World Cup history, as the host nation claimed a 30-10 win in the opening game of the tournament. 

In the lead-up to the match, Japan's players - including captain Michael Leitch - confessed to nerves from the weight of expectation.

But those nerves didn't affect Matsushima. Instead, the winger impressed and was presented the man-of-the-match award by All Blacks World Cup winner Dan Carter. 

"Some of my teammates were getting too tense or trying too hard," he told Kyodo News. "I had fun from the start and did not have any awkward nerves."

Matsushima was quick to credit Japan's forwards for his three-try performance. 

"I was able to score a hat-trick because our forwards did an excellent job. I'm going to try to improve my finishing."

Japan coach Jamie Joseph praised Matsushima for his treble, but credited the forwards for their work too.

"He's in great form, and he's been waiting for the opportunity," said Joseph. "When the rest of our players play their potential, then our team will put pressure on the other guys.

"If we can create opportunities, our wingers can finish. They get the accolades because that's what the Ferraris get, but lots of the work is done upfront."  

Joseph was also quick to praise Russia, who only qualified for the tournament in May last year after Spain, Belgium and Romania were sanctioned for fielding ineligible players. 

"No one's really talking about how strong Russia were. This is like a grand fiinal for them, as they came into this tournament as underdogs and written off.

"So you have to take your hats off to their coaching team and their players. They never gave up right until the end and our players are feeling it at the moment, physically and now we've got to get back on the horse and look forward towards next week."

Japan are back in action next Saturday against Ireland, while Russia only has three days to prepare for a clash against Samoa. 

Essential Guide to 2019 Rugby World Cup

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The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

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