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All Blacks to play Test in Japan

NZN 16/05/2017

The All Blacks will get their wish of a pre-World Cup hitout in Japan after a November 2018 Test against the Brave Blossoms was confirmed by the New Zealand rugby union on Wednesday.

The defending champions, looking for their third consecutive World Cup crown, will play Japan on November 3 before jetting off to Europe for their end-of-year tour.

The venue is yet to be confirmed but is likely to be in Tokyo.

New Zealand Rugby's announcement coincides with their participation in a trade and business delegation to Japan, led by Kiwi Prime Minister Bill English.

NZR chief Steve Tew said the Test would give the All Blacks the perfect opportunity to acquaint themselves with Japanese conditions.

It would also help the union prepare logistically for the Cup in 2019, and stoke local enthusiasm for the tournament.

"Interest in rugby in Japan is on a high and will only build as we get closer to the Rugby World Cup," Tew said.

"Playing in Japan is always a highlight - their fans love the game, and are great supporters of the All Blacks."

The All Blacks have played Japan in three official Tests, the most recent being in Tokyo in 2013, when they triumphed 54-6.

They also took on the Brave Blossoms, now coached by Jamie Joseph, in the 1995 and 2011 Rugby World Cup pool stages.

A 2009 Bledisloe Cup Test against the Wallabies was also held in Tokyo.

At last week's 2019 World Cup draw in Kyoto, coach Steve Hansen spoke of his desire to play a Test in Japan before the tournament.

He reiterated that desire on Wednesday, saying the match would be key for his side's tilt at the Webb Ellis Cup.

"It'll give our team the chance to experience the unique environment and culture we will return to the following year," Hansen said.

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