All Blacks to play Bledisloe Cup match in Japan; all preparations for 2019

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New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen speaks to the press in Yokohama on February 1, 2018 after inspecting Yokohama International Stadium where New Zealand will play against South Africa and the final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup will be held. / AFP PHOTO / TORU YAMANAKA (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) and New Zealand Rugby (NZR) have confirmed that a second match will be held in Japan. This will proceed the Japan v New Zealand test on November 3. This additional game will be another Bledisloe Cup match in Japan – the two sides also faced each other in 2009.

in scheduling back-to-back matches, All Blacks management hope to emulate the scheduling of the upcoming 2019 Japan Rugby World Cup. Playing on repeat weekends will benefit in both the logistics and practicalities of playing offshore–and importantly for JRFU and World Rugby, generate some interest in the 12 months prior to the RWC.

All Blacks to play Bledisloe Cup match in Japan; all preparations for 2019

The match will be played at Nissan Stadium, Yokohama, on Saturday 27 October. In the NZR media release, NZR chief executive Steve Tew said “We’re delighted to confirm that a Bledisloe Cup Test match will be played in Japan for the second time in the history of this great rivalry.

Bledisloe Cup
New Zealand All Blacks captain Richard McCaw attends a photocall with Australian Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom before the Bledisloe Cup test, at the national stadium in Tokyo on October 27, 2009. (Photo credit TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

“The last match in 2009 was a fantastic event but this year’s Test at the 72,000-seat stadium in Yokohama will be at another level.

“The All Blacks have huge support in Japan so the Bledisloe Cup Test will be important for the team as we build support ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019.”

Japan, as host, will be able to test the venue with a large crowd. Holding 70,000 plus, the organizers can test systems and facilities. JRFU President Tadashi Okamura said “We certainly look forward to two of the world rugby’s leading teams moving their stage into Japan and showcasing another fierce, great battle. At the same time, it’s our great hope that this match will build momentum towards Rugby World Cup 2019.”

Perfect Practice for Rugby World Cup Organizers

The ticketing details and kick-off time for the Yokohama Bledisloe Cup match in Japan; as well as the All Blacks vs Japan Test, will be announced by the JRFU in due course.

Looking at the benefits, one could see how traveling to different cities over the two weeks that the side is in Japan, could see visits to one or more venues. Management can then be sure that come 2019, all effort will have been made to be prepared.

Head coach Steve Hansen was in Japan (see main picture), to coincide with the announcement. Speaking to the Kyodo News, Hansen said “Clearly we want to come and win it [the RWC]. But we also want to enjoy our time here in Japan and get to understand the Japanese people and spend some time with them, so it’s very much about playing some good rugby, some winning rugby, and enjoying the culture of the country.”

Visiting Oita Stadium was part of a fact-finding trip around the country, to inspect every match venue for the tournament – the 2019 tournament kicks off on September 20 next year. Hansen told reporters his players planned to make the most of their time at the first World Cup staged outside a top-tier rugby nation.

Second ever Bledisloe Cup match in Japan

Meeting one of their greatest foes on neutral territory, has been scheduled before. In 2009, the Wallabies took on the All Blacks in a ‘spectacle’. More so an outreach to the Asian market, the match ended in a thrilling 23-18 win to New Zealand. Well received, and a positive experience at the time.

Scheduling the third test of the long standing Bledisloe Cup series, is also a telling point. In 2017, the All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup for a 15th consecutive year. It’s format is where Australia must win away from home, to secure the trophy. So the question raised is, will the October 27 match be an opportunity for the Wallabies to ‘steal away the Silverware?’

While not out of the question, New Zealand Rugby will have considered that equation. If it were to happen, then the bigger picture is, the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

The first Bledisloe Cup Test (and opening Investec Rugby Championship test) will be played in Sydney on August 18, with the return match a week later at Eden Park on Saturday August 25.

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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