The agony and the ecstacy: Rugby World Cup 2019 in pictures

The agony and the ecstacy: Rugby World Cup 2019 in pictures
Spirit of the game: Wales’ Justin Tipuric consoles Louis Picamoles of France ©INPHO/James Crombie

The final act of the Rugby World Cup in Japan is almost upon us, with England facing South Africa in the final tomorrow.

After more than six weeks of action, Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography has selected some of his favourite images from all the action so far.

Speaking of his experiences covering the Rugby World Cup, Stickland said, “Japan is just an amazing place, it’s so culturally different and I’d recommend anyone to visit.”

“The tournament has been really good as well, there have been some really good matches.”

The photos selected mirror Stickland’s experience, with the atmosphere throughout the tournament on display in the pictures. “The Japanese fans have really taken to it, everyone has been so enthusiastic.”

Having said that, outside the stadiums it would sometimes be hard to know a major sporting event was after taking root in the country. “You wouldn’t notice it’s been on in some places as Japan is so big,” Stickland tells us.

The pictures show the full range of emotions on display at a major sporting event, capturing the agony and the ecstacy that accompanies elite sport.

And it's not just the players that are put through the mill, with those in the stands living vicariously through the exploits of the stars on the pitch.

Stickland, who has covered the Irish rugby team as far back as the inaugural tournament, is as familiar with the low points as anyone. Stickland says that from an Irish perspective, the tournament was “really disappointing, especially with expectations so high,” but adds that Ireland “haven’t become a bad team overnight.”

One of the highlights of this World Cup has been the excitement of the host nation to be a part of the occasion, and Stickland’s personal favourite of the selection is the painted face of a fan at Ireland’s quarter-final tie against New Zealand. For Stickland, it sums up how Japan has welcomed rugby, as part of a tournament where rugby welcomed Japan to the top table.

Up in arms: South Africa's Eben Etzebeth in the quarter-final tie against Japan©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Up in arms: South Africa's Eben Etzebeth in the quarter-final tie against Japan©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Failure to launch: Keith Earls can't hold on to a high ball ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Failure to launch: Keith Earls can't hold on to a high ball ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ireland's Call: Ireland fans singing at the quarter-final against the All Blacks ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Ireland's Call: Ireland fans singing at the quarter-final against the All Blacks ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Trade off: An Ireland fan looking to swap tickets for the quarter-final ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Trade off: An Ireland fan looking to swap tickets for the quarter-final ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Game face: A colourful fan at Ireland's quarter-final tie against New Zealand ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Game face: A colourful fan at Ireland's quarter-final tie against New Zealand ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Catch me if you can: Ireland's Jacob Stockdale with New Zealand's Sevu Reece ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Catch me if you can: Ireland's Jacob Stockdale with New Zealand's Sevu Reece ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Beaten but unbowed: Ireland's Peter O’Mahony with his daughter Indie after the quarter-final ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Beaten but unbowed: Ireland's Peter O’Mahony with his daughter Indie after the quarter-final ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Stand off: The England team face the New Zealand Haka ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Stand off: The England team face the New Zealand Haka ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Land of the setting sun: France fans at their quarter-final game against Wales ©INPHO/James Crombie
Land of the setting sun: France fans at their quarter-final game against Wales ©INPHO/James Crombie

Sounding out: Australia’s Marika Koroibete with his son Isaiah ©INPHO/James Crombie
Sounding out: Australia’s Marika Koroibete with his son Isaiah ©INPHO/James Crombie

Taking sides: A young fan ahead of the semi-final between England and New Zealand ©INPHO/James Crombie
Taking sides: A young fan ahead of the semi-final between England and New Zealand ©INPHO/James Crombie

Snap-happy: South Africa's Siya Kolisi takes a selfie with fans ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Snap-happy: South Africa's Siya Kolisi takes a selfie with fans ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Standing tall: Ireland's Rory Best ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Standing tall: Ireland's Rory Best ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Growing rugby's reach: Makazole Mapimpi scores a try ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Growing rugby's reach: Makazole Mapimpi scores a try ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Family first: Ireland's Rory Best with his three children (L to R) Penny, Richie and Ben after the quarter-final loss to the All Blacks ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Family first: Ireland's Rory Best with his three children (L to R) Penny, Richie and Ben after the quarter-final loss to the All Blacks ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ready for my close-up: A Japan fan ahead of the game between South Africa and Wales ©INPHO/James Crombie
Ready for my close-up: A Japan fan ahead of the game between South Africa and Wales ©INPHO/James Crombie

One more game: South Africa's Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen celebrate after the semi-final ©INPHO/James Crombie
One more game: South Africa's Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen celebrate after the semi-final ©INPHO/James Crombie

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