International: New Zealand and Japan sign pioneering cooperation agreement

David Skippers

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson is seen at Rugby House in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (AAP Image/Ben McKay) NO ARCHIVING ** STRICTLY EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO COMMERCIAL USE, NO BOOKS **

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) have signed a pioneering agreement to deepen the relationship between the two governing bodies in a bid to grow the game across the Asia Pacific region.

The Memorandum of Understanding deal will see the NZR and JRFU explore strategic and commercial opportunities which included regular matches between the All Blacks, All Blacks XV and Māori All Blacks and Japan Rugby’s Brave Blossoms and Japan XV from 2024 to 2027.

Exploring further opportunities

There will also be discussions to explore opportunities for New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams to play Japan League One sides outside of core Super Rugby Pacific competition windows, and for the Black Ferns Sevens and All Blacks Sevens to play the Japan Sevens outside of existing tournaments.

The two national unions will also discuss the possibility of including of some of Japan’s top women’s players to play in the Super Rugby Aupiki and Farah Palmer Cup competitions.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson is excited about the groundbreaking partnership.

“It is great to formalise our relationship with Japan Rugby, we have a long-standing and strong history of collaboration and mutual respect on and off the field, as well as a shared love for rugby and the values our game,” he said. “The Memorandum of Understanding provides us with opportunities for our teams in Black, commercial partners, and other professional teams and competitions to work more closely together.

“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.”

JRFU chief executive Kensuke Iwabuchi echoed Robinson’s sentiments.

“Japan Rugby acknowledges the heritage of New Zealand Rugby and the shared respect for the integrity of our respective teams and competitions,” he said.

Share a love for rugby

“We have a shared love of rugby and the values that the game stands for on and off the field, including teamwork, hard work, honesty and integrity.

“In working more closely together, NZR and JRFU acknowledge the importance of maintaining and respecting the heritage, competitiveness and commercial operations of existing rugby competitions played in Japan and New Zealand or involving teams from Japan and New Zealand.”

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