All Blacks to play test in Japan in 2018 to help promote 2019 Rugby World Cup
The All Blacks will play a test in Japan in 2018 - for the first time in five years.
New Zealand Rugby confirmed the news on Wednesday with chief executive Steve Tew in Japan as part of a trade delegation led by Prime Minister Bill English.
The test will be played on November 3 with a venue to be confirmed later this year when locations for the 2019 Rugby World Cup are announced.
The All Blacks have not played in Japan since 2013 when they won 54-6 in Tokyo.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said the game with Japan would be played on the way to the end-of-year European tour.
"i think it's big on a number of fronts," Tew said.
"Obviously we are keen to get some familiarity with the place for the players in particular and the coaching staff.
"I think it's going to be very good for building New Zealand up as the second favourite team for the Japanese fans at the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.
"If we play Japan in the quarter final we'll let them wear red and white that day."
He said it was important to build profile for the World Cup and a good dummy run at one of the venues.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the contest against the Brave Blossoms, who are coached by former Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, would be ideal preparation ahead of defending the William Webb Ellis Cup in Japan the following year.
"It'll give our team the chance to experience the unique environment and culture we will return to the following year. We look forward to being hosted by the Japanese," he said.
Tew said the team would be on the way to Europe after finishing a tough domestic championship, so the game could not be taken for granted.
An "appropriate commercial arrangement" had been struck with the Japanese rugby union.
He said rugby was strong in the universities in Japan and that linked to corporate Japan because companies were led by people who played rugby at university.
"They use that now as part of defining their company."
Tew said the union took New Zealand's broader interests into account when setting the clash with Japan.
"We're always talking to Government about the role we can playing helping push brand New Zealand and push our interests in trade and politics. It's a consideration but clearly the overriding thing at the moment is there's a World Cuo here in 2019 and we want to get established in this market and we certainly want to give the guys a chance to experience what will be a fascinating tournament, but it will be different."
New Zealand had taken the idea to Japan but "this particular cocktail' had been brewing for some time.
New Zealand rugby had always seen Japan as an important market and the All Blacks had a lot of fans here, Tew said.
"If it's going to work anywhere in Asia then Japan's the place for it."
Prime Minister Bill English said the World Cup gave New Zealand and Japan a chance to strengthen their relationship.
He said the test match in 2019 would be "a fantastic opportunity for promotion of the World Cup here in Japan and a great curtain raiser for the World Cup itself'".
Japan Rugby Union head Tadashi Okamura said it was a pleasure and an honour to announce the game with "the best team in the world".
The All Blacks beat Japan 74-0 and 106-4 in two tests in Japan in 1987 and also played the Wallabies in Tokyo in 2009.
New Zealand and Japan have played five test matches since 1987, including two Rugby World Cup games.
Interest in international rugby peaked in Japan in 2015 when Eddie Jones coached Japan to the greatest upset in Rugby World Cup history - a 34-32 win over two-time world champions South Africa.