If anyone in the All Blacks camp is stuck for ways to take their mind off rugby during free time in Japan, they won't have to look further than prop Angus Ta'avao for suggestions.

While he's one of 19 players in the 31-man squad attending their first Rugby World Cup, Ta'avao is well aware of the need to separate work from downtime over what could be a nine-week stay in the country.

And he's got plenty of ideas of how to go about doing that.

"The options are endless really," he said.

Angus Ta'avao. Photo / Photosport
Angus Ta'avao. Photo / Photosport

"I love Japan. The culture's awesome, the people are respectful, the food's delicious - I mean, it's pretty hard to find a bad ramen - and I don't mind getting down to the karaoke bars and giving it a bit of a whirl.

"We've got a little bit of downtime, the boys like to sing in the showers and on the bus so I'm sure they'll be keen to get a mic in front of them and have a sing-along there.

"There's the classic saying it's a marathon not a sprint and if you go too hard you can blow out pretty easily, mentally as well … We've got no shortage of finding that balance and we've got great people around us to manage that."

It was a facet of the campaign that was reinforced by Ian Foster, who is setting out on his second World Cup campaign as an All Blacks assistant coach.

"The pressure is all encompassing, but you've got to have a bit of fun there," Foster said.

Angus Ta'avao takes a hit up against South Africa. Photo / Photosport
Angus Ta'avao takes a hit up against South Africa. Photo / Photosport

"You've got to actually enjoy the experience, so making sure we get our work done and prepare the way we want to, but part of that is giving all of us a chance to get out of the hotel and enjoy the culture. You've got to get that balance right."

The All Blacks flew out for Japan this morning and would spend the best part of two weeks getting familiar with the surroundings and conditions before their first pool match against South Africa on September 21.

For Ta'avao, having the chance to fly out to Japan with the All Blacks didn't seem all that likely to him as recently as last year.


"I think it's unreal," he said of the opportunity to play in the World Cup. "You play these games throughout the year and it's all building up, but now it's literally you win or you go home and you're representing the country, there's a lot of high expectations but that's what we love. We've talked about embracing that and using it to fuel us."

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