England were cheered by an army of travelling fans as they kicked off their bid for Rugby World Cup glory with a showdown against Tonga in Japan this morning.
Supporters dressed in Union Jack and St George’s flags erupted as their team took an 18-3 half-time lead in the group-stage match after powerful centre Manu Tuilagi scored two quick tries.
Ahead of the game, patriotic fans inside the Sapporo Dome stadium rose from their seats, clenched their fists over their chests and belted out God Save The Queen in chorus with England’s starting XV.
The clash against the tier-two Pacific Islands team got underway at 7.15pm local time (11.15am UK time), but fans enjoyed the competition’s festivities before going into the ground, making full use of the local and pop-up bars.
Over 140,000 Britons are expected to make the 6,000-mile trip over the course of the tournament – which pits England as one of the favourites alongside defending champions New Zealand.
Supporters dressed in both Union Jack and St George’s flags have descended on the city of Sapporo for the national team’s first group stage match of the competition
Inside the stadium, patriotic fans rose from their seats, clenched their fists over their chests and belted out God Save The Queen in chorus with England’s starting XV
England will be cheered by an army of travelling fans in their opening bid for Rugby World Cup glory as they prepare for their showdown with Tonga in Japan this morning
Merry English fans make their way to the stadium prior to the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group C game between England and Tonga at the Sapporo Dome
Supporters dressed in Union Jack and St George’s flags erupted as their team took an early lead in the group-stage match via a try which saw powerful centre Manu Tuilagi (pictured in white) crash across the whitewash
The clash against the Pacific Islands team is due to kick off at 11.15am UK time, but fans have been enjoying the competition’s festivities before taking their seats, making full use of the local and pop-up bars
Two England fans ride the metro in Sapporo on the team’s opening match against Tonga in Japan for the Rugby World Cup this afternoon
Those who have tickets for England’s opener appeared in high spirits before kick off and were pictured waving St George’s flags outside the Sapporo Dome stadium
Those who have tickets for England’s opener appeared in high spirits before kick off and were pictured clutching foamy pints outside the Sapporo Dome stadium.
Fearing that overseas supporters will drink the Japanese outlets dry, official tournament sponsor Heineken has reportedly increased its beer production by 80 per cent.
Today’s Pool C match has been billed as a David and Goliath-like encounter, with Eddie Jones’ men ranked as the world number three side and Tonga much further down the table at 15th.
But although their players are considered underdogs, proud Tongan supporters rallied in good numbers as they made their way into the ground with fellow rugby lovers.
Earlier in the day, a home nations showdown saw hotly-tipped Ireland thrash Scotland 27-3 in their Pool A opening game.
Although their team is considered an underdog, Tongan supporters rallied in good numbers as they made their way into the ground
England fans represent their nation inside the Sapporo Dome as they wait for kick off in the team’s opening match against Tonga
A group of spectators dressed in snorkel gear poke fun at the England squad, which famously crashed out of the competition in 2015 after failing to break out of the pool stage
Patriotic English supporters queue at the Sapporo Dome ahead of the Rugby World Cup match against Tonga
When England hosted the last World Cup in 2015, their competition ended in misery after crashing out in the group stages.
This is the first time the tournament has been held in Asia since its 1987 inception, and famously merry rugby fans have been advised to respect Japan’s culture while enjoying the rugby.
England boss Eddie Jones, who used to coach Japan and masterminded their shock win over South Africa in 2015, was given a huge cheer by the local fans when his face was shown on the big screen.
Captain Owen Farrell opened the scoring in today’s game by slotting a ten-minute penalty for three points, but Tonga quickly equalised via the boot of their scrum-half Tane Takulua.
England were denied a try in the 22nd minute after the Television Match Official (TMO) ruled that Sam Underhill’s dive over the line had not grounded the ball.
But two quick tries by powerful centre Manu Tuilagi saw them open up a 15-point lead over Tonga at half-time.
Prop Kyle Sinclair added to England’s try haul after crashing over the whitewash on the back of a set-piece line-out maul.
This is the first time the tournament has been held in an Asia since its 1987 inception, and famously merry rugby fans have been advised to respect Japan’s culture while enjoying the rugby
Two England fans walk through the underground in Sapporo ahead of today’s opening match against Tonga
Captain Owen Farrell opened the scoring in today’s game by slotting a ten-minute penalty for three points
Two quick tries by powerful centre Manu Tuilagi (right) saw them open up a 12-point lead over Tonga on the half an hour mark
Rugby lovers packed out the 40,000-seat Sapporo Dome, which had a retractable roof that was kept sealed