New Zealand confirm test match with Japan ahead of World Cup

The sides will meet in November 2018

Japan, Rugby

Image: Mike Egerton/PA Archive/PA Images

New Zealand rugby have confirmed they will face Japan before 2019's Rugby World Cup.

Japan host rugby's global showpiece for the first time ever in a little over two year's time and will host the reigning world champions in November 2018.

Steve Hansen's side will travel to Tokyo at the end of their European Tour and New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew says the test will help prepare the country ahead of the World Cup.

"Interest in rugby in Japan is on a high and will only build as we get closer to Rugby World Cup 2019," he said.

"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.

"Playing in Japan is always a highlight."

Tew also said he expected the match to garner a lot of interest in Japan.

"Their fans love the game and are great supporters of the All Blacks and New Zealand rugby. Our partners adidas and AIG are also very active in using our players in the region in various campaigns and promotions, so I expect there will be keen interest in the match."

'Don't come much bigger'

JRFU President, Mr Tadashi Okamura said: "It is a great pleasure to welcome the All Blacks back to Japan for a match less than one year out from Japan hosting Rugby World Cup 2019.

“Matches don’t come much bigger than against the current World Champions, so in many ways it will be a curtain-raiser to the tournament in 2019.

“We have a tremendous amount of respect for the All Blacks and are proud of the strong rugby relationship between Japan and New Zealand. We have learnt a lot from New Zealand rugby over the years and we look forward to our Head Coach and former All Black, Jamie Joseph, leading out our team."

The All Blacks have faced Japan on five occasions. The pair have met at World Cups in 1995 and 2011, as well as in a test match in 2013.

Previous to this, they had faced Japan twice 1987 but the games weren't given test match status. 

Japan rose to prominence at the 2015 Rugby World Cup after a late try secured a historic victory over South Africa.

New Zealand defeated Southern Hemisphere opposition Australia in the World Cup final almost two years ago.

Japan players celebrate Karne Hesketh's try which earned them victory over South Africa at the Rugby World Cup in September 2015. Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/PA Images