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Rugby World Cup blog: 'I hugged a perfect stranger'

On Saturday I hugged a perfect stranger. We held each other for quite a while and it was beautiful. I don't make a habit of this so don't get nervous if you see me shopping or walking in the park. Its almost certain I won't spontaneously embrace you, really. There was a reason.

It's hard to say at what point eighty odd players and spectators at Carlisle Rugby Club went from taking a passing interest in the Japan v South Africa game while eating their pies and chips, to thinking that Japan were doing okay, to being on the edges of our seats roaring at the television.

It happened though. Players from Millom and Whitehaven and Carlisle and Broughton Park were united in our support of the boys from the Land of the Rising Sun.

It is always nice to see an underdog win but the manner of the victory, the bravery Japan's players showed in shunning the safe option of a kick to draw the game with the final play was inspiring. They rolled the dice opting for a death or glory gamble at it came up a six!

Biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history Credit: Press Association

There are great moments in Rugby, and this was perhaps the greatest upset in the history of the sport. You have to share them with the people you are with and if that ends up being a scrum half from West Cumbria who you have never spoken a word to before, hug him anyway.

When the shock and jubilation died down a few minutes later a Scottish friend of mind suddenly remembered something, "Oh God, we've got Japan on Wednesday, I hope they celebrate like sailors on shore leave tonight."

My local rugby club was bouncing at the weekend, it could be that we had three sides playing at home, but I suspect the World Cup will drag a few more bodies into clubs all over the region.

The third team I play for seldom has the luxury of five subs like we did this weekend, new recruits and the semi-retired dragged on to the field of play after watching England beat Fiji and deciding to pull on some boots.

I've even heard reports that parks and fields that usually see kids kicking a football around have seen an oval ball being slung around as children set up impromptu games of touch.

Let's hope the fever builds.

Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw Credit: Press Association

Scotland start their campaign against Japan on Wednesday and may be relieved to have seen their opponents draw so deeply on their reserves to beat the Springboks this weekend. Local boy Greig Laidlaw will be leading the side and despite the heroics of the Japan players at the weekend they will still be reasonably confident of pulling a win out of the bag.

It has been a fabulous opening to what promises to be a fabulous tournament.

Scotland's big two pool games are in Newcastle and a big Borders contingent is expected to turn out to cheer them on.

If you can't take in a game yourself then you can watch all of the games on ITV and the repeats can all be seen on ITV player.

Get watching, get involved and if what you see does inspire you to gave the sport a try for yourselves, then be assured that your local club will be delighted to see you.

As a man who spends large parts of his winter weeks trying to raise fifteen players to run around a field on a Saturday afternoon I can promise that willing bodies, however inexperienced, are always a welcome sight.

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