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Tokyo beckons as All Blacks confirm first stop on end-of-year tour

By Tom Vinicombe
(Photo by Getty Images)

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The All Blacks have confirmed the first stop on their end-of-year tour, with a Test scheduled for October 29th against the Brave Blossoms in Tokyo.

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New Zealand and Japan last met on the pitch in 2018 when the likes of George Bridge, Brett Cameron, Mitchell Drummond, Gareth Evans, Dillon Hunt, Tyrel Lomax, Dalton Papalii and Matt Proctor all made their international debuts for the All Blacks.

That fixture ended 69-31 in NZ’s favour but the Brave Blossoms will be hoping to put on a braver showing later this year, having almost scraped a win over France in July as well as picking up victories over Ireland and Scotland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

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The Japan Test will precede the All Blacks European tour, which includes matches against Wales, Scotland and England in November and marks the seventh time New Zealand and Japan have squared off since their first clash in 1987.

“Rugby in Japan has grown its profile in recent years and that’s been reflected in the results of the national team, so the All Blacks will expect a tough Test in Tokyo,” said New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson of the newly announced match.

“We are looking forward to building on our relationship with Japan Rugby and our partner Taisho Pharmaceutical in October. Taisho’s support for this fixture has been key and I have no doubt it will be a great occasion seeing the two teams play at the National Stadium.”

Brave Blossoms head coach Jamie Joseph – who led the Highlanders to their one and only Super Rugby title in 2015 and has since taken Japan from strength to strength – shared similar sentiments:

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“Today’s announcement is tremendous news that will be welcomed by our fans in Japan and around the world. We’re very much looking forward to hosting the All Blacks in Tokyo and playing in front of our home fans.

“We are excited to be now facing New Zealand at home, and then England and France on our European tour, three teams that will be in line to lift the Webb Ellis Cup next year in Paris. This is the level of competition that we need to be testing ourselves against, to strengthen our squad ahead of next year’s World Cup.”

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