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On this day: Japan shock the rugby world

Japan toppling the Springboks in 2015

Japan pulled off the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history on this day in 2015 with a stunning 34-32 win over South Africa at the Amex Stadium in Brighton.


A try by Karne Hesketh in the final minute helped Eddie Jones’ side end their long wait for another victory in the quadrennial tournament.

The only previous World Cup win for Japan had been in 1991, but their 24-year wait without one – which stretched across 18 games – was ended in spectacular fashion on the south coast.

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South Africa, two-time winners of the Webb Ellis Trophy at this stage, held a narrow lead at half-time and, in spite of a bright start by the underdogs, it was expected the Springboks would prove too strong after the break.

It did not prove the case with Ayumu Goromaru producing an accomplished display with the boot and when he converted his own try with 10 minutes left, the score was 29-29 and his own personal tally for the match stood at 24.

A Handre Pollard penalty seemed to have South Africa on course to narrowly avoid a big shock but Japan were not about to go down lightly.

Following a sustained period of pressure, a quick ball found Hesketh on the left flank and he dived over to spark wild and unexpected scenes of celebration at the Amex where the crowd were treated to a huge World Cup shock.


The Japan players soaked up the adulation of the fans at full-time and bowed in front of the main stand, with this one of three wins for Jones’ side during the tournament.

It was not enough to secure a first-ever berth in the knock-out phase but the foundations for future success had been laid.

While Jones would move on and take charge of England, successor Jamie Joseph picked up the baton and lead his country into a home tournament in 2019 where they produced two more shocks.

Group wins over Ireland and Scotland – the latter avenging a heavy loss four years earlier – saw Japan reach a maiden quarter-final and despite a 26-3 defeat to eventual champions South Africa, their own campaign and the overall World Cup was deemed a huge success.


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Jon 48 minutes ago
How Maro Itoje terrorised the All Blacks lineout

Yeah England were much smarter, they put their much vaster experience to use in both the scrum (bending/not taking hit) and lineout (Itoje early sacks) law vagaries. Really though, I know what is there, I’m more worried about Englands locks. We only got to see Itoje and Martin, right? Depth allround in the England camp was probably the difference in the series and the drop off when Itoje reached his minutes limit for the season (it was like the plug was pulled from the charger) was up there with keeping Sexton on the park in that quarter final. What happened there? You have a lot of watching hours experience with locks come blindsides Nick, especially with a typical Australian player make up, have you see a six the size of Barrett absolutely dominate the position and his opposition? I can easily see Scott, and even Martin for that matter, moving to the blindside and playing like Tadgh Beirne with the amount of top locks we have coming through to partner Patrick. Still with the English mindset, because despite running the best All Black team I’ve seen in a long time close, they do need to find improvement, and although I thought they had a lot of good performances from their 7’s (over the years), I really like the prospect of Cunningham-South in his 8 spot and Earl on the open. Can you see Martin as mobile enough to take over Lawes? I absolutely loved his aggression when Jordie ran upto him to try and grab the ball. That alone is enough reason for me to try him there.

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FEATURE Rikki Swannell: 'It was the most visceral reaction I’ve ever seen or heard in sport.' Rikki Swannell: 'It was the most visceral reaction I’ve ever seen or heard in sport.'