Matsushima's Top 14 debut lasts 16 minutes before injury strikes

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Kotaro Matsushima. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
Kotaro Matsushima. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Kotaro Matsushima's widely-anticipated debut in the French Top 14 lasted just 16 minutes on Sunday when he was forced off the pitch with a thigh injury.

The 27-year-old Japanese international full-back, playing for his new club Clermont in front of 10 000 fans at the Stade Marcel Michelin against Toulouse, only had the chance to put in a couple of kicks and enjoy a 20-metre break before injury struck.

He was replaced by Cheikh Tiberghien with his side narrowly ahead 6-5 at the time.

The South African-born Matsushima, who starred at last year's World Cup in Japan by scoring five tries, has signed a two-year deal at Clermont.

Clermont went on to edge a thrilling match 33-30 having been in cruise control at half-time at 23-5.

Toulouse, the champions in 2019, ended the match having scored four tries despite playig with just 13 men for the last 30 minutes after red cards for Iosefa Tekori and Richie Arnold.

They also briefly led 30-26 at one stage.

But a try 10 minutes from time - Clermont's third of the game - from George Moala and converted by Camille Lopez gave them the crucial edge.

There was still time for late drama when they came close to losing at home to their rivals for the first time since 2002.

However, Romain Ntamack's score was ruled out.

"We went through all the emotions. There was character on both sides," said Clermont coach Franck Azema.

"I'm happy to have won because it's important to start the season well and we knew we were playing a big game at home.

"My team is under construction and has been working together since June with a mix of young, new and older players, officials.

"I found a lot of solidarity and we did not give up until the last second and that allowed us to win."

In the day's other match, Brive defeated Bayonne 42-23.

French Top 14 results on Sunday, the opening round of the 2020/2021 season:

Brive 42 Bayonne 23

Clermont 33 Toulouse 30

Played on Saturday:

La Rochelle 29 Toulon 15

Agen 22 Castres 26

Lyon 23 Racing92 27

Played on Friday:

Montpellier 23 Pau 26

Stade Francais v Bordeaux-Begles - postponed

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