Australia run riot against Japan

Twice champions Australia showed they are starting to rediscover their best form at the perfect time by thrashing Japan 91-3 in their opening World Cup Pool B match on Saturday.

Despite playing their first game in seven weeks, the Wallabies gave a brilliant display of open rugby to pile on 13 unanswered tries in their opening match of the tournament.

The Japanese were never expected to mount any real challenge against their bigger and more experienced opponents but the devastating manner of Australia’s performance will give their main rivals cause for concern.

Eight Australians helped themselves to tries with blindside flanker Rocky Elsom leading the way with a hat-trick.

Fullback Chris Latham, replacement wing Drew Mitchell and debutant flyhalf Berrick Barnes each scored two tries while openside flanker George Smith, lock Nathan Sharpe, wing Adam Ashley-Cooper and reserve hooker Adam Freier also notched five-pointers.

Despite the temptation to chase easy points from the outset, the Australians began cautiously.

The Wallabies opted to keep the ball in the forwards during the first half to try to sap the energy from the Japanese on a warm and sunny afternoon at Gerland stadium and the tactic worked perfectly.

The Australian scrum, which has often been identified as their weakest link, performed admirably, even pinching a tighthead off the Japanese, while the lineout was typically efficient.

The backs did not get a lot of ball in the first 40 minutes but showed what they were capable off in the second term with some spectacular running touchdowns.

Sharpe scored the opening try off the back of a 30m rolling maul in the 18th minute then Elsom crossed twice to give the Australians a 23-3 lead at the break after flyhalf Kosei Ono kicked a consolation penalty for Japan.

Elsom completed his hat-trick when he beat two defenders in a galloping run to the line just a few minutes after the re-start as the Wallabies began to throw the ball wide.

Barnes scored with his first touch of the ball in international rugby while Latham made an impressive return from injury with his two late scores. – Reuters

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