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All Blacks still 'big in Japan'

Thu, 30 May 2013 18:45
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We have been exploring an option with Japan
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The All Blacks are to play Japan later this year on their way to a European tour.

It would be their first Test against their hosts on Japanese soil.

The New Zealand powerhouses will take on the Brave Blossoms national side in Tokyo on November 2, the Sankei Sports daily reported, in the run-up to matches against France, England and Ireland later in the month.

New Zealand Rugby Union Chief Executive Steve Tew said a game in Japan was under discussion.

"New Zealand Rugby and All Blacks management have been considering the value of another Test this year as part of a much wider strategy focusing on the team's development heading towards 2015 and the World Cup," he said in a statement.

"As a result we have been exploring an option with the Japan Rugby Football Union [JRFU] for the All Blacks selected for the European tour to play Japan en route to Europe.

"There is nothing to confirm at this stage and discussions are continuing."

The JRFU in Tokyo were similarly tight-lipped, saying they had "no information" on the subject.

A game against the World Cup holders would be a huge boost to Japanese rugby, which is trying to raise its profile and quality before hosting the 2019 World Cup.

The November match, if realised, would be the third Test between the teams and the only one outside of the World Cup.

Japan lost both previous encounters, including a 17-145 drubbing in the 1995 tournament.

A New Zealand XV trounced Japan at home twice in 1987, but neither game was given Test match status.

The All Blacks, who had 12 wins, one draw and one defeat in Test matches last year, won the 2011 World Cup at home to keep their number one ranking.

They last visited Japan in 2009 for a Bledisloe Cup match against Australia.

AFP

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