As the Rugby World Cup pauses for breath between the groups stages and knockout rounds, now seems a good time to reflect on what’s been an eventful tournament so far.
Host Japan has been the surprise package, topping its group with victories over Ireland, Scotland, Samoa, and Russia, while Uruguay shocked Fiji to record its first World Cup victory in 16 years.
We’ve seen plenty of tries, five hat-tricks and, with eight games still to play, seven red cards — already two more than any other previous tournament.
Then there’s been the small matter of a typhoon to contend with which caused three matches to be canceled and a fair amount of fallout between teams and organizers.
But away from the rugby pitch, there’s also been lots to talk about. From body painters to astronauts, here’s a look at some of the tournament’s off-field highlights.
READ: Canadian rugby players help typhoon clean-up
Even before a whistle had been blown and a ball had been kicked, Japan proved itself to be an excellent host.
Each team received a personal welcome, which included a haka for New Zealand’s All Blacks, traditional hymns for the Welsh team, and a national anthem sung in kilts for Scotland.
Embracing new cultures and new languages, local fans have made everyone feel at home.
An astronomical good luck
Rugby World Cup support has come from all corners of the globe — and beyond.
That was the case, at least, for Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, who sent a good luck message to the Italian team from the International Space Station.
The rugby-mad Parmitano was able to watch the Azzurri take on South Africa as this World Cup became the first to be broadcast in space.
Having recorded wins over Canada and Namibia, however, Italy was brought back down to earth with a crushing defeat by the Springboks.
READ: Japan reaches first Rugby World Cup quarterfinal
Bak-san’s body paint
Closer to home, one fan who has gained lots of attention throughout the World Cup group stages.
Japanese superfan Bak-san has been spotted at various stages of the tournament sporting the jerseys of a number of different teams — in paint.
With the help of his wife, who painstakingly paints the colors onto his torso in impressive detail, Bak-san hopes to “wear” the colors of all 20 teams before the end of the tournament.
Typhoon clean up
With Typhoon Hagibis causing widespread disruption, the Canadian players were quick to help out after their match against Namibia was canceled.
They took to the streets of Kamaishi with bags and spades to clear the debris left by the torrential rain and strong winds.
“In times likes this there’s an awful lot more important than rugby,” said Canadian fly-half Peter Nelson.
“When we got here we saw people’s houses destroyed, water up the walls, and we’re just trying to do our very small part to help them in any way we can.”
READ: Ireland defeats Samoa and advances to Rugby World Cup quarterfinal
Japan’s crucial game against Scotland was finally given the go-ahead after Typhoon Hagibis had threatened it to be canceled.
The Brave Blossoms’ final training session ahead of the game, however, was hampered by a flooded tunnel which had to be traversed.
Some tried to tip-toe around the edge, some asked for piggybacks, while others didn’t think twice and waded straight through.