Barrett and his teammates go to a miso ramen restaurant in Shinbashi in September 2019, when Japan hosts the Rugby World Cup (Photo by Yuri Adachi).
On the other hand, what is in it for the All Blacks to play a lower-ranked Japanese team? A veteran rugby writer revealed:
“The All Blacks are rather eager to come to Japan. This is because the All Blacks and Super Rugby, especially in 2020, have been drastically cut back on the number of games they play because of Corona and the lack of money coming into the association. Even in 2020, when the Japanese national team was not able to play a single international match, there were talks going on behind the scenes to have the All Blacks and the Japanese national team play in Fukuoka, through the network of former All Blacks warrior and Japan head coach Joseph. That, too, eventually disappeared because of Corona.”
“However, if the All Blacks could play in Japan this time, they could expect to receive admission fees from spectators and broadcasting rights fees, as they are still very popular. After the All Blacks play Japan, they are scheduled to play Wales, Scotland, and England in Europe after November 6, and since the popularity of the All Blacks is also strong in Europe, income can be expected there as well. New Zealand will have to pass through somewhere before going on this European tour, and Japan is an advantage for the NZ Association as a “transit point” for the tour.”
Even in New Zealand, which is known as the “Kingdom of Rugby,” not even half of the scheduled Super Rugby league matches in 2020 could be completed due to the spread of the pandemic. Clubs, no longer able to generate revenue from admission fees, were forced to cut back on staff due to a decline in funding. The money generated by the All Blacks’ tour of Japan and Europe is also important to restore funds for the NZ Association’s operating expenses and the development of young players.
Incidentally, the 2019 match against Japan at Ajinomoto Stadium attracted 43,751 people in a venue with a capacity of 47,000. Last year’s match at the Millennium Stadium in Wales also sold out 70,000 tickets in advance, and if it happens in October at the National Stadium, it is quite possible to fill the 68,000-capacity venue. That would also mean more money for the All Blacks.
The 2022 All Blacks, announced in March, included many players who already played in Japan. Including FB McKenzie, who played for Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath, SO Beauden Barrett, who played for Top League Suntory in 2021 and was the leading scorer, and LO Sam Whitelock, who played for Panasonic in 2020 and has over 100 NZ national caps.
However, three players remain for the three games against Ireland scheduled to play in July: Beauden Barrett, LO Whitelock, and Retallick, who played for Kobe Steel, while Perenara and others were not selected. McKenzie, who played for Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath, and Tuipulotu, who played for Toyota Verblitz, will be looking for a second chance from the appeal in the states where they signed. Either way, this is sure to be a fun match for Japanese fans.