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Japanese push France to limit

France survived an almighty scare to eventually prevail over Japan in their Pool A opener at North Harbour Stadium. It had all been going according to plan for Marc Lievremont's side at the break as tries from Julien Pierre, Francois Trinh-Duc and Vincent Clerc opened up a 25-11 advantage.

But Japan, for whom James Arlidge had registered a try and two penalties, launched a stunning fightback as the former Newport Gwent Dragons man knocked over another penalty and cut through for his second five-pointer to put the Cherry Blossoms within four points.

Two-time finalists France were rocking but Lievremont's blushes were spared as Yachvili, who ended with 17 points, kicked his third penalty and Lionel Nallet, Pascal Pape and Morgan Parra crossed late on as Japan tired. It had looked ominous for Japan, with only one World Cup finals win to their name, when they conceded the first try inside five minutes, Pierre touching down with Yachvili adding the extras. The second try followed seven minutes later and was tough on Japan as Trinh-Duc picked off a loose pass and streaked away to score, Yachvili was again on target with the conversions.

Arlidge got Japan on the board as he was successful with his second penalty attempt, although Yachvili responded with two of his own for a 20-3 lead.

But Japan were growing in confidence and a bit of good fortune saw Arlidge's attempted grubber rebound into his hands to dash over, although he missed the conversion. France hit back with a lovely try, made by Yachvili and finished by Vincent Clerc before Arlidge landed his second penalty on half-time to keep Japan in touch.

Arlidge took a short ball off scrum-half Fumiaka Tanaka to break a tackle and angle in under the posts, with the out-half's conversion cutting France's lead to just seven points.

Another Arlidge penalty left four between them before Yachvili steadied French nerves with his third penalty. The late flurry of tries then arrived as Japan ran out of steam to give France a margin of victory they scarcely deserved.

Scorers -- France: Pierre, Trinh-Duc, Clerc, Nallet, Pape, Parra tries. Yachvili 4 cons 3 Pens. Japan: Arlidge 2 tries, con, 3 pens

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