Japan pulled off one of the biggest shocks in rugby history ©Getty Images

Japan caused arguably the biggest upset in rugby union history as they stunned the mighty South Africa with a 34-32 victory at the Rugby World Cup in Brighton.

Karne Hesketh scored a try in the corner with the clock ticked well past 80 minutes to snatch a win that barely seemed possible before kick-off.

The Japanese had not won a World Cup game since 1991 but the 2019 hosts were superb as they stunned the Springboks, one of the sport's southern hemisphere powerhouses and the winners of the tournament in both 1995 and 2007.

"It's quite incredible," said stunned Japan coach Eddie Jones.

"We thought we could compete but to beat South Africa is a fantastic achievement for the team and it's a great day for Japanese rugby."

Michael Leitch and Ayumu Goromaru also crossed for Japanese tries while the latter also kicked two conversions and five penalties in the Group B success.

South Africa did manage four tries for a bonus point, through Francois Louw, Bismarck du Plessis, Lood de Jager and Adriaan Strauss, and they picked up the losing bonus too, but that will be no sort of consolation after a loss that has sent shock-waves through the sport.

Elsewhere, Ireland began their challenge by demolishing Canada 50-7 in their opening Pool D clash in Cardiff.

They ran in seven tries at the Millennium Stadium to get their campaign off to the comfortable start that most had predicted.

A yellow card shown to Canadian captain Jamie Cudmore was not what his country needed in the first half as Ireland went in 29-0 up at the break thanks to tries from Sean O'Brien, Iain Henderson, Johnny Sexton and Dave Kearney plus nine points from Sexton's boot.

That secured the bonus point for the Irish in the first half but in the second Canada managed to last 25 minutes without conceding any further points, largely aided by Ireland's Paul O'Connell being in the sin-bin.

The dam eventually broke again though as Sean Cronin touched down, converted by Ian Madigan, before DTH van der Merwe scored an interception breakaway try for Canada, converted by Nathan Hirayama, to provide their only points of the game.

Georgia began their tournament by beating Tonga
Georgia began their tournament by beating Tonga ©Getty Images

Ireland weren't done and Rob Kearney went over followed by Jared Payne, with both efforts converted by Madigan to complete a satisfactory start.

Elsewhere in Group D, France beat Italy 32-10.

Rabah Slimani and Nicolas Mas crossed for French tries in what was largely a kicking battle between the two Six Nations rivals at Twickenham.

Frédéric Michalak successfully converted both of France's tries and was successful with five out of seven conversion attempts, while the Italians only had Giovanbattista Venditti's try and five points from kicker Tommaso Allan to show for their efforts.

South Africa born Scott Spedding also converted a penalty for the French.

In Pool C, Georgia claimed a 17-10 win at Gloucester's Kingsholm Stadium after tries from Mamuka Gorgodze and Giorgi Tkhilaishvili and two penalties and a conversion from Merab Kvirikashvili.

Tonga replied through Fetu'u Vainikolo's try and five points from Kurt Morath's kicking tee as the Pacific Islanders started with defeat.

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