For now, the hoopla around the next World Cup will be about who has been draw to play who and how that will play out in terms of knockout permutations.

But come the tournament itself, the bigger focus for most teams is not going to be on who they are playing, but how well they can deal with being in Japan for an extended time.

World Rugby has bravely, and not before time, taken the showpiece event outside of the established territories. Japan might be culturally Old Word but in a rugby context and in a homogenised world of cultural imperialism, it is about as different as anywhere can be.

Every nation, other than the hosts, will be out of their comfort zone. Previous World Cups, at least as far as the main contenders would see it, have been on the beaten path.


Most All Blacks would have a degree of familiarity with the places which have hosted previous World Cups.

England, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and South Africa ... they go there often enough and with the exception of 2007, the host nation has been English-speaking.

Even in 2007, the All Blacks had a fair amount of experience in France, having played two tests there in November 2006.

And while there was a language barrier, the French, for all their idiosyncrasies aren't so wildly different to their Anglo-Saxon brethren.

But Japan will be different. It is off the beaten the track. The All Blacks have been there in 2009, to play Australia, and again in 2013 to play Japan, but a couple of weeks in Tokyo does not breed familiarity.

Few of the main contenders regularly play in Japan and when they do, it is almost always in Tokyo.

High-performance teams are all about routine. They function best when the staples of preparation are without drama or difficulty.

Players are finely balanced, not so much physically but mentally and if it becomes an ordeal trying to eat well, find a coffee and get around to do a bit of spare time sight-seeing and relaxing, then the wheels can come off quickly.

Players need to feel settled and Japan has the capacity to make a few individuals twitchy, pining for home and all the known comforts it brings.

This ability to embrace the differences of the host nation has the ability to impact significantly on which nation is ultimately successful in 2019.

Some countries have proven to be better intrepid tourists than others in a World Cup context.

The Irish and Scots probably being the two nations who can wash up just about anywhere in the world and find a way to make themselves feel right at home.

The former will no doubt tip sake into their Guinness and the latter deep fry their sushi, but somehow they will make Japan a home away from home.

The Welsh, on the other hand, are renowned as being home boys. Happiest when the valleys are within sight and mum's rarebit is in the oven.

The French, predictably perhaps, are hit and miss. They relished New Zealand in 2011 but didn't ever feel at home in England in 2015.

So what about the All Blacks? Will they find a way to embrace a part of the world that isn't so far away geographically but is on a different planet culturally?

That question looms as more relevant than whether they can find a way to build a gameplan to beat the Springboks and Italy who have been placed in their group.