World Rugby bosses have taken action against manufacturers and sellers of fake replica All Black Rugby World Cup jerseys.
The Herald on Sunday revealed last weekend that at least two Chinese-based companies were already manufacturing cheap knock-offs of the new-look strips that the men in black will wear at the tournament in Japan.
The new jerseys – which feature intricate koru and fern patterns – had only been released to the public by adidas and New Zealand Rugby on July 1.
Counterfeiters wasted little time in producing their own range – which feature the official Rugby World Cup logo - and selling them online from as little as $20; compared with up to $200 for the real thing.
But online pages selling the products were taken down last week after the Herald on Sunday alerted both World Rugby and the Japan Rugby 2019 tournament organising committee to their sale.
"World Rugby is committed to ensuring the best possible experience for Rugby World Cup fans, including taking proactive action against any outlet attempting to profit by use of Rugby World Cup or union intellectual property in the form of counterfeit products," a World Rugby spokesman said.
"In June alone, we successfully halted the sale of more than 3000 counterfeit goods and will continue to protect fans with such proactive measures."
The fake jerseys highlighted last weekend were being sold by two Chinese-based companies; Mufasa Sports and Xiaochouya2. Neither company would comment.
The World Rugby spokesman said the sporting body employed a "sophisticated global monitoring and take-down process".
But they would not elaborate further on that process.
The spokesman said World Rugby took "very seriously" licensee and fan protection.
With less than 60 days remaining until the tournament kicks off in Japan – with the All Blacks seeking a third successive tournament triumph – he urged fans to buy tickets and other gear only from authorised outlets.
The sale of officially licensed products – which included replica gear, other clothing items and tickets – had a big role in terms of commercial opportunities which provided money for "the global development of the game".
Japan Rugby 2019's website features a Buy Official page listing approved sellers. Fans are also urged to report the sale of any "fraudulent" tickets, supporter tours, hospitality packages and counterfeit products.
"As is the case with the purchase of tickets, our message to fans is to only buy from official outlets to avoid disappointment," the World Rugby spokesman said.
In the build-up to the World Cup, Japanese lawmakers introduced legislation in a bid to combat the sale of unofficial tickets at inflated prices.
Individuals caught selling tickets in Japan now face fines of up to $13,439 or a prison term of up to a year.
Adidas – one of New Zealand Rugby's key sponsors and its official kit supplier – spoke earlier this year on its frustrations about cheap knock-off gear being sold online.
"It's important Kiwis recognise that by buying fake product they're not supporting their favourite team, quite the opposite," adidas' New Zealand country manager Quentin Bleakley told the Herald on Sunday.
"They're impacting the deals that help grow the sport."
NZ Rugby's lucrative deal with adidas – first signed in 1999 – is estimated to be worth at least $10 million annually.