Tricky Subways & Stadium Confusion: Rugby World Cup Weekend Takeaways

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The ninth Rugby World Cup got off to a wonderful start across the weekend with Tokyo, Yokohama, Sapporo and Hanazono all hosting matches.

Tournament hosts Japan got their campaign off to the perfect start with a bonus-point win in the opening match, before England bookended the weekend with an unconvincing 34-3 victory over Tonga.

In between those two fixtures there were wins for Australia, France, New Zealand, Italy and Ireland.

Read on as we bring you some of the colour, atmosphere and key talking points from the first few days of action.


You dead set need a degree in engineering or architecture or design, or something, to navigate your way around the Japanese subway system. It has been common place to see World Cup fans, of any nationality, staring blankly up at timetable boards, switching data back on their phone briefly or lining up to consult with World Rugby officials as to which is the best way to get to either Tokyo Stadium or International Stadium Yokohama.

One of the issues seem to be that the same trains that head out, don't always exist for the return journey. Your intrepid ESPN reporter learned that the hard way when he was expecting to get back to Yokohama station after the All Blacks-Springboks classic, only for the train to stop one station short and head back towards the stadium again. Paying closer attention to the hoards of supporters might help, but then who do you trust?

Those 60 minutes turned into 115 minutes but fortunately one of the locals was more than happy to assist with subway timetable breakdown.

And that seems to be a common theme among fans, that they have felt a wonderfully warm welcome from the locals who are not only happy to put up with such subway antics as in-carriage train-surfing -- Les Bleus, ahem -- but are also quick to lend a hand to any lost or confused traveler.

By the time your man on the ground has to come home, he probably will have just worked the subway out.


It was a warning made in the build-up to the tournament, but it seems not everyone got the message about being abundantly clear which Yokohama Stadium the weekend's New Zealand-South Africa and Ireland-Scotland games were played at.

Yokohama, of course, has two separate venues but only one of which is in use during the Rugby World Cup: International Stadium Yokohama or Nissan Stadium.

The other is Yokohama Stadium where baseball team DeNA BayStars play.

Unfortunately, some World Cup supporters have either not been specific enough for their cab driver or haven't really checked their tickets at all. ESPN overheard a number of funny tales of such instances en route to Yokohama over the weekend where fans had ended up at the wrong venue. Perhaps over-inebriation is an issue?


The seat-to-seat beer vendors have been a big hit at the Rugby World Cup so far, ensuring thirsty fans don't have to miss a minute of the action should they have a hankering for a fluid of the amber variety.

World Rugby made it clear to Japanese organisers the levels of beer supporters were capable of consuming and, so far, it seems that demands are being met. The food, however, has been a different story.

On Monday the World Cup organising committee released a statement saying punters now would be able to bring a "small amount of food in the stadiums."

"The opening weekend has demonstrated that the level of service is not befitting that of a Rugby World Cup with some fans experiencing queuing delays and some vendors prematurely running out of some food options," the statement read.

"With fan experience a major priority, the organising committee, in consultation with World Rugby, has taken the decision to allow fans to bring a reasonable amount of food into the venue for personal consumption from today.

"As per normal for a Rugby World Cup, fans will not be able to bring beverages into venues."

It's good to see plenty of supporters aren't too concerned with stadium food and are instead keen to sample the countless restaurants and eateries available either outside the venue or back near where they are staying in either Tokyo or Yokohama.

ESPN spied jerseys of every nation in the neighbouring cities over the weekend tucking into some ramen, gyoza or yakitori either on the walk back from International Yokohama Stadium or in the Shinjuku district back in greater Tokyo. Usually washed down with an Asahi or Kirin, too, of course.


The Wallabies received an almighty scare from a fired-up Fiji in Sapporo on Saturday, only to eventually pull away on the strength of a superior bench and the sin-binning of centre Levani Bota.

But it was the lack of a yellow card or, even a red, depending who you talk to, for Wallabies winger Reece Hodge's tackle on Peceli Yato, who was unable to return, that really set social media alight.

Make of online commentary what you will but World Rugby has made virtually taken a zero-tolerance approach to high-contact, which Hodge's tackle seemingly delivered. However, the Wallabies winger wrapped both arms on Yato and it was more of a ball-and-all tackle than anything.

In this reporter's opinion Hodge deserved a yellow card at the time, but nothing more should have come of it post-match like we are indeed seeing now. The Wallabies winger could be rubbed out of Sunday's crunch Wales match if he is suspended at a judicial hearing which is 3pm Wednesday afternoon [JST], which came about after Fiji management referred the incident to the citing commissioner.

That decision certainly invoked the ire of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who described Fiji's move as "not in the spirit of the game."


It was a forgettable evening for Scotland on Sunday as their campaign opened with a listless 27-3 loss to Ireland, a result which could well put them on a collision course with Japan for the final spot in the quarterfinals in the pool stage's final game on Oct. 13.

Coach Gregor Townsend was at a loss to explain how his side could start a World Cup "without energy or aggression" just as the Scottish boss had described their efforts only moments earlier at the post-match press conference.

"Well that's what we're asking each other; the energy was there but it wasn't as high as it has to be here. Whether that wasn't there in the warm-up or the players hadn't played for two or three weeks, they trained really well, but we missed the start of that game, which was really disappointing."

Asked a follow-up question on the same subject with the added impetus that there had been "numerous examples of Scotland starting games slowly across a number of years, Townsend replied: "I would say there's examples of us starting well in games, so if you go back a number of years you can dig up anything really. Today we missed out by 20 minutes and, against Ireland, they start really well and put points on the board."

Townsend was certainly right about the first 20 minutes, Scotland were already down 12-3 by the time the first quarter was run and, five minutes later, Tadgh Furlong had Ireland's third try. Against the world's No. 1 ranked team, that margin was always going to be incredibly difficult to reel in.

The big problem for Scotland is, however, that they didn't reel it in at all.