Planet Rugby

Asian tour for Maori All Blacks

07th July 2014 06:34

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Maori All Blacks break into a Haka while Fumiaki Tanaka of Japan takes a Sumo stance

Back on tour: Maori All Blacks in Japan

The Maori All Backs will play two matches in Japan, and in an historic match, will play in Singapore for the first time, the NZRU confirmed.

The Maori All Blacks will take on Japan on Saturday November 1 at Noevir Stadium, Kobe and on Saturday November 8 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo.

The team will then travel to Singapore to play the Asia Pacific Dragons, an invitational side drawn from top Asian and Polynesian players. It will be coached by former All Blacks Captain and Counties Manukau Coach Tana Umaga.

"We are really excited to once again assemble the Maori All Blacks thanks to the support of New Zealand Rugby's Major Global Sponsor AIG," said New Zealand Maori Rugby Board chairman Wayne Peters.

"We are also very pleased to go to a country where the profile of rugby is growing and where Rugby World Cup 2019 will be held. Japanese love to see our men in black jerseys so we hope this tour will be a great draw card for fans there."

Maori All Blacks Head Coach Colin Cooper was excited to again take the team offshore.

"The Maori All Blacks are a critical part of our high performance programme and this tour, like the successful tour to North America last year, provides an excellent opportunity for players to press for higher honours," said Cooper.

"Japan has recently qualified for their eighth straight Rugby World Cup and beat Italy to record their 10th straight win so they will provide top opposition as the team builds for next year's tournament so we are really looking forward to the challenge."

Japan Rugby Football Union Chairman Tatsuzo Yabe said:

"It gives us great pleasure to welcome the Maori All Blacks to Japan for the first time, following the last autumn's tour by the All Blacks, the world champion. It is a privilege to be able to invite and have two matches with another leading rugby team from New Zealand again this year," said Yabe.

"The Japan national team has recently become 10th in the IRB world ranking for the first time in its history. However, to make the knock-out stage in the Rugby World Cup 2015, they have more work to do.

"Therefore, taking on a strong opponent such as the Maori All Blacks is tremendously important for the development of our team, whose target is the top eight in the Rugby World Cup.

"Both the Japan national team and the Japan Rugby Football Union look forward to hosting every member of the Maori All Blacks in November while making its best preparation for the match."

The Maori All Blacks will play the Asia Pacific Dragons at Singapore's new National Stadium on 15 November.

"The Maori All Blacks partnership with AIG allows New Zealand rugby to take the game to new places and reach more fans and the match in Singapore is an example of this," said Peters.

"Singapore, and South East Asia, is an emerging market for rugby and we know there is a huge appetite there to see the exciting style of rugby the Maori All Blacks are famous for.

"Playing in the magnificent new National Stadium in Singapore's sports hub provides a fantastic venue for fans to really enjoy what will be a great exhibition of top rugby.

"The Asia Pacific Dragons will also include several younger Asian players in a wider training squad which will provide them with valuable exposure to a professional rugby environment. It provides a great opportunity to further develop the game in that part of the world, and something the Asia Pacific Dragons have been at the forfront of of the past few years.

"Singapore is also a possible home for the 18th Super Rugby side so we see this match as a good fit on many levels."

Maori All Blacks Asian Tour:

November 1 v Japan, Noevir Stadium, Kobe
November 8 v Japan, Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo
November 15 v Asia Pacific Dragons, National Stadium, Singapore

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