New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has not been afraid to maximise its interest outside of the country, with the union’s partnership with Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership making the headlines last season.
The two entities have strong links with Adidas, which was believed to be a motivating factor behind the agreement, and the union between the two should see an exchange of coaching staff and knowledge, as well as potential commercial alignments, with NZR particularly keen to tap into the London market. There is also the potential for Harlequins to become a preferred destination for Kiwi players looking for sabbaticals in Europe.
Following that affiliation, it seems Japanese electronics giant Ricoh is now driving further collaboration between rugby in New Zealand and other parts of the world.
The company, who have been a “long-time supporter and partner” of the Hurricanes, have seen that support evolve into a new three-year partnership between the New Zealand franchise and the Ricoh Black Rams in the Japanese Top League.
The agreement will see players, coaches and high performance staff from the Japanese side spend time in the Hurricanes camp, with high performance staff from the ‘Canes also heading to Tokyo to assist the Blacks Rams during their domestic season.
Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee, said “We have had a strong commercial partnership with Ricoh New Zealand and we are delighted to formalise this agreement which will benefit the Hurricanes and the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan.”
“It’s a massive year ahead for rugby in Japan with the Rugby World Cup and we look forward to supporting the Black Rams and growing our presence here.”
With it becoming increasingly difficult for Kiwi Super Rugby sides to keep their players in the country, with the money on offer in Europe and Japan far exceeding that in New Zealand, this agreement, as well as the one NZR signed with Harlequins, gives the Hurricanes and NZR more control and influence over clubs that could be seen as potential destinations for sabbaticals.
That pathway will work in both directions, too, and Japanese centre Aki Makita has been training with the Hurricanes over the last few weeks and will turn out for the franchise’s Hurricanes Hunters side against Japan A this weekend.
Strategically affiliating with sides in Europe and Japan could be key for New Zealand staying at the top of the international game as the rugby world evolves over the coming years.
Watch: Rugby World Cup City Guide – Tokyo
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