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Japan, Barbarians options for NZ 2017 tour

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/12/2016 Angelo Risso

The All Blacks will break from their 2016 Test schedule by playing a team outside World Rugby's elite on their 2017 northern tour.

Tests in France, Wales and Scotland have already been lined up by the world champions for next November's four-match campaign.

But New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew confirmed on Monday that a fourth side, yet to be determined, would not come from the game's top-ranked nations.

The decision leaves 2019 World Cup hosts Japan as a likely touring option, or a return to North America to take on the USA Eagles or Canada.

A non-Test outfit may also be in the frame, such as the Barbarians.

"Next year, the major focus for this team is clearly the British and Irish Lions, who represent an enormous challenge," Tew said.

"By the time we get away to Europe, having another fixture against another top-ranked side doesn't appeal."

This year's tour, coming off the back of a gruelling southern hemisphere schedule, included two games against Ireland, as well as Italy and France.

Injury and fatigue took their toll by the side's final Test in Paris, with the All Blacks outplayed by Ireland and France despite their victories.

They also lost to Ireland 40-29 in Chicago.

Tew said that the side's trip to the United States, coming off their first adventure Stateside in 2014, had been an off-field success.

He guaranteed the side would return in the future, if not next year.

"Chicago has been enormously successful on every front, other than that obviously we didn't win the second time," Tew said.

Tew also confirmed the All Blacks would not play an in-form England again until 2018 at the earliest.

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