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Rumoured French tour to Japan should worry All Blacks and Wallabies fans but might spark good news for Pacific Islands

By Tom Vinicombe
Kotaro Matsushima takes on the French defence during Japan's 23-23 draw with France in Paris in 2017. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

If rumours out of France are anything to go by, then New Zealand and Australia could be in for underwhelming Test schedules in 2021.

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French newspaper L’Équipe has reported that France will embark on a two-game tour to Japan in 2021. The last time that France and Japan clashed was in 2017, with the two sides recording a draw.

The Rugby World Cup showed that the Brave Blossoms are more than capable of footing it with the tier-one teams around the world. England have already locked in a tour to the Land of the Rising Sun in 2020, giving Japan two exceptional July series over the next two years.

Japan’s gain could be Australasia’s loss, however, with quality Northern Hemisphere opposition likely to be hard to come by thanks to the British and Irish Lions tour.

The Lions will travel to South Africa in 2021, which will gut England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland of a number of key players. That leaves France as the only European powerhouse who will have a full contingent available.

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In 2017, during the previous Lions tour to New Zealand, France travelled to South Africa for a three-match series.

Australia, meanwhile, played in a quasi-tournament with Fiji, Scotland and Italy.

The All Blacks and Wallabies will now be looking at similar schedules for 2021, if it does come to light that Japan are hosting France.

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A match between New Zealand and Italy could be on the table, with the Italians last travelling to New Zealand in 2009. The two nations were supposed to duke it out in this year’s World Cup but the game was famously called off due to Typhoon Hagibis.

Otherwise, the Pacific Island sides could have the most to gain.

Fiji will play the Wallabies next year and are understood to have already secured a game against the All Blacks in 2021. With few other appealing opposition on offer, NZR could look to line up matches against other Pacific Nations sides – and Rugby Australia will likely try something similar.

France will almost certainly add one additional game to their July schedule, which could see them travel to one of the Antipodean nations for a final game.

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One way or another, the best Test rugby on offer will be coming out of Africa, with the world champion Springboks hosting what promises to be an exciting Lions side.

New Wallabies coach Dave Rennie knows that expectations are high for the New Zealander:

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