Thousands of England and South Africa fans began filling the streets – and bars – of Yokohama seven hours before the Rugby World Cup final was due to kick off at 11am on Saturday, with nervous speculation top of everyone’s agenda.
In a repeat of the 2007 final, won by the Springboks, England start favourites on the back of their demolition job on New Zealand a week ago.
Can they repeat it, to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the second time, or will South Africa be able to muzzle them, just as they did Japan and Wales in the previous rounds, and take a third title?
Fans clad in team colours - and a bewildering selection of fancy dress - mixed happily together on a glorious sunny day, with the occasional red and white Japanese shirt adding a splash of variation to the dark green and white of the protagonists.
“I say 18-15 to South Africa. It will be because of the forwards, we are a lot stronger than them. We’ll suck them in,” Springbok fan Ernest told Reuters.
“Springboks to win it by 10, just too strong for the English,” agreed his friend Jason.
England supporter Jamie took a different view, saying: “Well, England play the better rugby, South Africa play boring, military-style, vicious rugby. We play the aesthetically pleasing run-around rugby, so we deserve to win and we will.”
The other hot topics of conversation were tickets and travel - how much paid (around two thousand pounds seemingly the going rate) and what last-minute arrangements were made to get here.
“One minute I was planning a ”watch the rugby breakfast” at my local club in London and the next I’m going straight from the airport and watching New Zealand v Wales in an Irish bar last night – I didn’t even go to the hotel on the way,” said England fan Matt – clad in an immaculate Crusader outfit, complete with inflatable shield.
“I came in via Osaka this morning – I only booked the flight on Thursday,” said James.
“I’m spending more on three days here than on a two week summer holiday but I just couldn’t miss it.”
Prince Harry, patron of the Rugby Football Union, will also attend the match, carrying a message of good luck from the Queen.
“Your performances during the tournament have delighted supporters and inspired many people throughout the country,” said the message, published on the Royal Family’s twitter account.
“I send my congratulations to the England team, management and support staff on reaching the final, together with my very best wishes for a memorable and successful match.” - Reuters