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All Blacks to play ‘regular’ matches in Japan as part of landmark deal

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

The All Blacks will play “regular matches” in Japan during the next World Cup cycle as part of a momentous agreement between New Zealand Rugby and the Japan Rugby Football Union.

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Looking to strengthen the relationship between the unions and grow the game in the Asia Pacific region, NZR and the JRFU have signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

NZR revealed in a statement that the agreement will see the unions “explore strategic and commercial opportunities.”

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As part of the MoU, the unions will explore the possibility of New Zealand-based Super Rugby sides playing Japan League One teams outside of the Super Rugby Pacific season.

This agreement will also lead to “more regular matches” between the All Blacks, Maori All Blacks, All Blacks XV, and the Japanese national team and Japan XV.

As confirmed by NZR in a statement on Wednesday, these representative teams from New Zealand and Japan will compete on a “regular basis” from 2024 to 2027. These matches will also be played in Japan.

The Black Ferns Sevens and All Blacks Sevens will also participate in the Japan Sevens outside of other tournaments, such as World Series events.

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NZR and JRFU will also look to include some of the best Japanese rugby players in Super Rugby Aupiki and the Farah Palmer Cup.

“It is great to formalise our relationship with Japan Rugby,” NZR CEO Mark Robinson said in a statement.

“We have a long-standing and strong history of collaboration and mutual respect on and off the field, as well as a shared love for rugby and the values of our game.

“The MoU provides us with opportunities for our Teams in Black, commercial partners, and other professional teams and competitions to work more closely together.

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“The intention is for teams across the spectrum to play more regular matches, while also looking at how our men’s and women’s competitions could work together in the longer term.”

Echoing those comments, JRFU CEO Kensuke Iwabuchi said the unions “have a shared love of rugby and the values of the game.”

“Japan Rugby acknowledges the heritage of New Zealand Rugby and the shared respect for the integrity of our respective teams and competitions,” Iwabuchi said.

“We have a shared love of rugby and the values that the game stands for on and off the field, including teamwork, hard work, honesty and integrity.

“In working more closely together, NZR and JRFU acknowledge the importance of maintaining and respecting the heritage, competitiveness and commercial operations of existing rugby competitions played in Japan and New Zealand or involving teams from Japan and New Zealand.”

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