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All Blacks and Japan to face off more often under new deal

The All Blacks and Japan will meet regularly from 2024 to 2027 as part of a wide-ranging deal announced Wednesday aimed at growing rugby across the region.

New Zealand Rugby and their Japanese counterparts said that the two sides will play the games in Japan and they will also explore commercial opportunities.

The memorandum of understanding will also look at whether New Zealand’s franchise teams can play top Japanese sides outside the Super Rugby Pacific season.

The agreement also has scope for the women’s and Sevens teams from New Zealand and Japan to play each other more often.

“It is great to formalise our relationship with Japan Rugby,” New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said in a statement.

“The intention is for teams across the spectrum to play more regular matches, while also looking at how our men’s and women’s competitions could work together in the longer term,” Robinson added.

Under the deal, New Zealand representative sides the Maori All Blacks and All Blacks XV — essentially a second-string team — will also regularly play their counterparts in Japan.

Japan put in strong showings at the last two men’s Rugby World Cups, reaching the quarter-finals in 2019 as hosts.

The Brave Blossoms also pulled off shock wins over South Africa and Samoa at the 2015 finals in England, where they narrowly failed to reach the knock-out stages.

Japan lost 38-31 to New Zealand when they played in Tokyo in October. 

The two teams have played five official Tests since 1995.

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