All Blacks confirm Japan Test
July 12, 2013
Australian Craig Wing is one of Japan's stars © Getty Images
New Zealand will play Japan for the first time in a standalone Test, at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Stadium in Tokyo on November 2, before heading to Europe for Tests against France, England and Ireland, New Zealand Rugby and the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) have confirmed. The teams have played each other four times previously, non-Test fixtures in Japan in 1987 and in the Rugby World Cup tournaments in 1995 and 2011.
"We are delighted to be playing Japan in what will be a historic Test in Tokyo," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. "The match fits in perfectly with our strategy for 2013 to not only grow our game but also to grow our leadership and depth within the All Blacks squad, and will give us the chance to give younger players further opportunities in the black jersey."
Japan showed a measure of their improvement recently when they defeated Wales in Tokyo, to record their first victory over top-tier opposition.
JRFU chairman Tatsuzo Yabe said: "It is a great pleasure to welcome the All Blacks back to Japan for a match against our national side for the first time in 26 years. New Zealand and Japan have long had a strong rugby relationship, ever since the Japan national team first played against New Zealand Universities 77 years ago. This time, again, playing against the reigning Rugby World Cup champions will be an exciting opportunity for Japan, led by Eddie Jones, as they build themselves for Rugby World Cup 2015. At the same time, hosting a historical match against the world-famous All Blacks in the heart of our capital will definitely build momentum for Rugby in Japan as we work towards Rugby World Cup 2019 which will be held in Japan."
Jones said: "It is a great honour for Japan to play against the All Blacks, the current Rugby World Champions and the No.1-ranked team in the world. The history of matches between the All Blacks and Japan hasn't been in our favour, but we have changed history once by beating Wales this year and we want to change history again when we play against the All Blacks. Every player who gets the chance to play against the All Blacks must be preparing to win against them. It's not only a physical challenge, but also mentally we need to play a game that really makes the All Blacks think."
The All Blacks last visited Japan for the Bledisloe Cup match against Australia in 2009.
Japan last played New Zealand at Rugby World Cup 2011 © Getty Images
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures