How are the All Blacks shaping up for their Autumn International against Wales? Read on for more on their clash with Japan this weekend, and check out ourAutumn International Hospitality Packages.
New Zealand warm up for their Autumn Internationals versus Wales, Scotland and England with a showdown against Japan in Tokyo — a game they'll be expected to win comfortably despite a series of absences.
Six key players didn't board the plane to Japan: the three Barrett brothers, Scott, Jordie and Beauden (family bereavement), lock Sam Whitelock and winger Will Jordan (both suffering inner ear problems), as well as scrum-half Folau Fakatava (ruptured knee ligament).
But the All Blacks are on a roll after three consecutive wins (including a 40-14 thumping of Australia) saw them clinch the Rugby Championship in September. Lifting the title was impressive given the team’s shaky start to the competition; head coach Ian Foster was under pressure after his side lost twice in their opening three matches, including a first-ever home defeat to Argentina.
But now they’ve clicked into gear, and bookies make the three-time Rugby World Cup winners favourites for next year’s tournament, behind hosts France.
Les Bleus were Japan’s last Test opponents and the Brave Blossoms ran the Six Nations champions close. Fabien Galthié's men trailed 15-13 with 10 minutes remaining at Tokyo's National Stadium. Ultimately, a late try by scrum half Baptiste Couilloud sealed victory for the tourists. But the game showed that the Japanese aren't a challenge to be taken lightly.
The Asian team, who are managed by Jamie Joseph — himself a World Cup finalist with New Zealand — would see their opponents as a prized scalp. And that’s a fact not lost on All Blacks full-back Damian McKenzie.
"We know Japan will bring everything they can,” he said.
"They've got some great backs and some elusive forwards as well. They always want to run and play an attacking brand of rugby. It's quick, it’s fast, and they've got nothing to lose. We've got to make sure we prepare well.”
Wales will be hoping it’s a bruising encounter that softens New Zealand up for their meeting in Cardiff on 5 November.
Links Hospitality will be in attendance to see if the home side can claim their first win over the All Blacks since 1953. Join us for great food, excellent guest speakers, a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and a fixture that's produced some classic encounters over the years.
Here’s more on ourAutumn International Hospitality Packages.