It’s a good day for facts and not the alternative variety. Cold, hard, indisputable facts is what we’re serving up today and foremost among them is that rugby is a real game. Raw and primal but steeped in honour and integrity, rugby is a blissful misnomer in an age of shameless self-promotion. None of the players are dating a Kardashian, pulling in US$30 million per year or have a couple of billion Instagram followers. We desperately need rugby and its core values now, which is why pure joy is seeping through my veins because here it is baby, finally: the 2019 Rugby World Cup. In Japan, no less. A country that is also steeped in honour and integrity. You’re damn right I want to be a part of this. Japan versus Russia, game one of 47, it’s on and all this talk about whether Japan, technically a tier two rugby country, would embrace the World Cup seems absolutely frivolous because you can taste the enthusiasm outside Tokyo stadium a few hours before the match. It’s here FINALLY #RWC2019 TV time in Ajinomoto @SCMP_Sport pic.twitter.com/8gHKWRDHQA — Tim Noonan (@T_NoonanEast) September 20, 2019 And lucky for me, a Canadian scribbling for a Hong Kong paper – which basically makes me a tier two writer squared – I’m not only going to get an education but a primo seat in press row. Of course primo is all relative, isn’t it, because when I arrive to take my seat it’s a tight squeeze up in the crow’s nest. There are a tonne of tables and work spaces all around but not for me as I will be even hard pressed to put my laptop on my lap in these tight quarters. Hello, excuse me, Mr Tier Two here reporting for duty. There must be a mistake as I had requested a work station to do things, like plug in my computer and file some copy. Well, no that is not the case, I am told, as a group of volunteer workers huddle around. Another 15 minutes or so go by before one of the volunteers re-emerges with Greg Thomas, the media and communications director for World Rugby. He’s a pleasant chap who takes the time to explain to me that the allocation for work stations is based on the two teams playing followed by all the other media from the remaining 18 teams in the pool. “Because Hong Kong is not here,” he adds, “I hope you understand.” Yeah I do, it’s probably not his decision but the message is still fairly clear: stay in your lane, junior. Still, these are the moments that define you as a journalist. To be a pro’s pro, you can’t make your sense of indignation personal here. You cannot write that aside from Nelson Mandela’s iconic appearance and support at the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, few events have done more to grow the game of rugby than the Hong Kong Sevens. It’s a global event that crams 120,000 people into Hong Kong stadium over three days and this newspaper is the official media partner of that event. And yes I know it’s sevens and this is the maximum gravitas of 15 a side, but no less than World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper told me a few days earlier that, “We have seen in all of the emerging markets and countries that actually sevens has driven the growth of 15s”. It might also follow that if you really want to grow the game that growth will be in tier two markets hence you might want to be a bit more accommodating to those markets. But, no, you have to be a pro so you can’t write any of that, you can’t even think it so I won’t. Just suck it up and head back to your seat, which I do. As far as the match goes, Japan emerged victorious 30-10. They were always going to play tight in the first half with so much pressure and they did. But by the second half, behind the exhortations of a boisterous and electric home crowd, the Brave Blossoms were much more fluid and their dangerous speed on the wings took over. The Russians don’t have a lot of imagination or flair but not only do they absolutely punish you on tackles, they seem to enjoy it immensely. Taking backstreets to Main Street and #RWC2019 big night for japan @SCMP_Sport pic.twitter.com/HoFLoMwVf1 — Tim Noonan (@T_NoonanEast) September 20, 2019 And Japanese Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Akishino along with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also seemed to enjoy themselves. But the VIP life was not for me and in the best tier two fashion I decided to slink home through the backstreets and alleys to help keep it real. I stumbled across a tiny joint called the Healing Bar, where they were selling beer off a hastily made table that looked more like a 10-year-old’s lemonade stand. I was told in no uncertain terms that “the Healing Bar will make you feel happy”. But will it heal the soul of a forlorn tier two hack? Damn right it will because beer is rugby and rugby is beer regardless of your tier. Ah well, onwards and upwards to Yokohama for the battle of the behemoths, New Zealand’s All Blacks versus South Africa’s Springboks, where I will likely have a prime vantage point to write something on the aesthetic values of the loading dock at Nissan Stadium. But you have to roll with it and be grateful that you are part of the show. So on behalf of all the tier two rugby writers and fans – the engines of growth for your great game, rugby – here we are now, entertain us. I feel stupid and contagious … hello, hello, hello, how low, how low.