Two weeks into Rugby World Cup 2023 and one of the most commonly heard phrases is "I miss Japan and the 2019 tournament."

For the many traveling Japanese fans, the expression has as much to do with what is happening with the Brave Blossoms as it does some of the other issues that have blighted the tournament so far.

On the field, Japan have been a shadow of their former selves, a point not lost on a number of observers from around the world who pointed out the Brave Blossoms of 2019 would more than likely have been able to beat England last Sunday in Nice.

Off the field, the efficiency of the Japanese transportation systems has been sorely missed.

Fans of Japan's Brave Blossoms are shown ahead of the team's Rugby World Cup opener against Chile on Sept. 10, 2023, in Toulouse, France. (Kyodo)

Cancellations of flights and train services and problems disembarking from cruise ships have forced fans to find alternative ways to the host cities and grounds, while delays have caused some supporters to miss parts of games or even whole matches.

"The French logistics have been very poor everywhere I've been," wrote Seb Parker, on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Jacques Rivoal, President of France 2023, admitted this week there had been issues but tried to put a positive spin on things.

"I'd like to salute the responsiveness to solving problems from the first weekend's matches," he said. "This has been a collaborative effort between all the teams and state services, mobility operators and local authorities."

But for many fans, some of whom had traveled halfway around the world, the damage had been done.

In Nice, there was confusion last weekend as the rules seemed to change by the day, leaving fans frustrated and angry.

For the Wales vs Portugal game on Saturday night, the shuttle buses from the fan zone to the stadium were free. But the following night fans were forced to form long lines to charge the travel cards needed to use public transport.

When they did get to the stadium there was a 20-minute walk as security measures in place prevented the buses from getting any closer. And while there were a few bars and restaurants close to the ground, none had big screens so fans could watch the game that kicked off immediately before the one played at Stade de Nice.

More worryingly was how overcrowded the trams -- the stadium is served by just one line -- were, especially after the game when fans headed back to downtown Nice.

"I was crushed and really scared and I was really worried about some of the older fans," said Aki Coughlin, who traveled to the game from Yokohama, near Tokyo, with her husband.

When one local was asked what happened when the stadium hosted football games at which there is more likelihood of problems arising between fans of opposing teams, the response was "The locals drive there."

For those working at the games in Nice things were just as bad. Not only was a media bus involved in a crash on Saturday night, but on both nights buses were canceled with no warning leaving a group of journalists stranded at the stadium at 2 a.m. following the Japan vs England game.

Organizers seemed not to care, brushing off such concerns by saying the Nice transport operation had "worked perfectly."

Contradicting this assertion, the very same day trains in the area were canceled and a message was sent out telling fans "who had booked the special shuttle for the Italy-Uruguay rugby match to use the Lignes d'Azur tramways."

Fans of Japan's Brave Blossoms are shown ahead of the team's Rugby World Cup opener against Chile on Sept. 10, 2023, in Toulouse, France. (Kyodo)

When asked about some of the opening week issues, a World Rugby employee pointed out that much of it was down to the restructuring that was needed after the head of the local organizing committee, Claude Atcher, was dismissed in October 2022 after "alarming managerial practices" were highlighted.

With Paris set to host the Olympics in 2024, and in light of the recent social unrest that has hit certain French cities, it may be the organizers have decided to use the Rugby World Cup as a test run in terms of prioritizing security.

Squads of heavily armed troops in addition to the police and gendarmerie are regularly seen patrolling host cities, and entry into the ground involves numerous searches and checks.

Two Japanese journalists were aghast when told, on a blazing hot day in Toulouse, that they could not take in bottles of water unless the caps were removed, while one prominent overseas writer had the complimentary drink bottle given to the media taken off him by an overzealous security guard.

The common phrase among coaches in the modern game is "We took some learnings."

Here is hoping the local organizers and World Rugby do the same as the tournament heads toward the knockout stages.

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