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.