The All Blacks are going to begin their 2019 World Cup preparations early by playing a test in Japan late next year.

NZ Rugby CEO Steve Tew has confirmed to Newstalk ZB's Larry Williams that the test will go ahead next year.

With the next edition of the World Cup to be hosted in Japan, the All Blacks are keen to try to familiarise with a country to which they have only had limited exposure over the years.

They will play Japan in a one-off test on November 3 on their way to play three more in Europe - one of which will be against England. The venue will be confirmed next year once more details about the World Cup have been revealed.


The All Blacks will obviously want to play next year in a city in which they are going to be based during the World Cup.

Playing in the World Cup host nation less than a year ahead of the tournament has become a regular routine for the All Blacks.

In 2006, they played two tests in France where they would be based for the majority of the 2007 event, and also one in Wales as they knew they were destined to play their quarterfinal match in Cardiff.

In 2014 they took on England at Twickenham 10 months before they returned to London for the 2015 tournament. They also played in Cardiff on that tour - as again their quarterfinal was destined to be played there.

A one-off test is a way to give the players some exposure to the on and off-field conditions they will encounter at the World Cup. It also means that the All Blacks can replicate, some kind of mini World Cup scenario next year where they suspect they will have to play a relatively easy final pool match before, hopefully, taking on three brutal knockout games.

A test in Japan followed by three in Europe presents a similar sort of challenge to prepare the team.
There is also a longer term commercial aspect behind the the decision to play in Japan.

The Tokyo-based Sunwolves have been given a place in Super Rugby and despite the plans to reduce the tournament to 15 teams next year, they are going to survive.

That's because New Zealand Rugby and it's Sanzaar partners are committed to helping Japan fulfil its potential as a rugby nation.

In terms of playing numbers and fan base, Japan is significantly larger than Australia. Then there is the fact it is the third largest economy in the world with a population greater than that of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina combined.

"Interest in rugby in Japan is on a high and will only build as we get closer to Rugby World Cup 2019," said New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew.

"The test will not only provide a great opportunity to prepare for the 2018 end of year tour, it also gives the team first-hand experience of playing in Japan less than a year out from the tournament."