Time is running out for Kiwis to catch their favourite All Blacks in Japan this summer, with no New Zealand broadcaster holding the screening rights to the Japan Rugby League One.
The competition kicks off on Saturday, but neither Sky TV, TVNZ or Newshub have the broadcasting rights yet.
The Herald understands Sky was in talks to run matches with Kiwi commentators, but negotiations stalled over the number of games that had to be broadcast.
The upcoming season will feature seven All Blacks and six Springboks who played in the 2023 Rugby World Cup final, including Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Sam Cane and Ardie Savea.
Sky told the Herald they were never confirmed official broadcaster and still don’t have the rights.
It comes as Sky TV recently announced another range of price hikes for its entertainment and sports content – some just months after its previous round of rises.
The broadcaster says it has faced increased costs and is offering more content.
The cost of Sky Sport will rise 11 per cent from $37.99 to $42.00 from February 1.
Not streaming the Japanese league in Aotearoa could come as another blow for All Blacks fans following the heartbreaking end to New Zealand’s World Cup campaign in October.
They’ll miss some big Kiwi stars in action, such as World Rugby Player of the Year Ardie Savea making his debut with the Kobelco Kobe Steelers alongside All Blacks teammate Brodie Retallick.
At Nagoya, Beauden Barrett makes his return to Japan – and a return to five-eighths – after being named by Toyota Verblitz director of rugby Steve Hansen.
Top scorer in the league when he played for Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath three seasons ago, Barrett was largely used at fullback during Ian Foster’s four-year All Blacks stewardship.
Barrett plays outside of his All Blacks teammate, halfback Aaron Smith, while the man of the match from the recent Rugby World Cup final, Springbok backrower Pieter Steph du Toit, is also in action for the hosts, who have big ambitions after missing the semifinals in the past two seasons.
All Blacks Richie Mo’unga and Shannon Frizell make their first League One appearance as former Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder’s Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo host Shizuoka Blue Revs.
Dane Coles joins last season’s champions, Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay, where he meets his country’s captain, Sam Cane and the Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath in the opening round.
An Australian broadcaster of the league is seemingly imminent after the league dropped a hint saying “details to come soon” on social media site X, formerly Twitter.
We’re excited to announce the launch of our Japan Rugby League One English X account!— JAPAN RUGBY LEAGUE ONE (@LeagueOne_EN) December 7, 2023
Give us a retweet and a follow to help us spread the word 🙌
From #RWC2019 to #LeagueOne, we hope you’ll stick around for the journey ❤️ pic.twitter.com/IIoweBnI6c
Sky is yet to confirm whether it will broadcast Super Rugby’s international preseason matches.
2023 All Blacks in Japan’s Rugby League One
Kobelco Kobe Steelers - Ardie Savea, Brodie Retallick
Toyota Verblitz - Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith
Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo - Richie Mo’unga, Shannon Frizell
Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath - Sam Cane
Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay - Dane Coles
- With AAP
Bonnie Jansen is a multimedia journalist in the NZME Sports team. She’s a keen footballer and has worked with the Alternative Commentary Collective and was part of the Te Rito cadetship scheme before becoming a full-time journalist.