Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks seek balance between business, pleasure in Japan

Prop Angus Ta'avao isn't about to let the cultural experiences end on the tarmac, after the All Blacks' rousing World Cup send-off from Auckland.

The two-time defending champions were afforded a haka from Air New Zealand staff, as they boarded their flight for Tokyo, with Ta'avao understandably excited to start his Japan experience.

"Why would you go to Tokyo and not go to a karaoke bar," he said. "The boys like to sing in the showers and on the bus, so I'm sure they'll be keen to get a mic in front of them and have a singalong there."

Skipper Kieran Read is also keen to soak up his last tour, before retiring from international rugby.

"We've got a really tight group and some good mates, so [we'll be] ensuring you get away with them outside of the game, if you can."

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And while All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has put a ban on golf, Ta'avao isn't short on other ideas.

"The food is delicious," he says. "Ramen, wow, it's pretty hard to find bad ramen."

Finding the right balance between game-time and down-time will be a key role for an experienced All Blacks management team.

"It's important in terms of understanding the culture we're about to go into - the cut-throat nature of it and the different pressures that come with this tournament," says assistant coach Ian Foster.

The team's support staff have become accustomed to that pressure.

Japan will be Steve Hansen's fifth World Cup - his fourth with the All Blacks, plus one with Wales. Scrum coach Mike Cron and mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka are also going to their fifth.

Manager Darren Shand is going to his fourth, while this will be Foster's second.

That's comforting for the All Blacks' 19 World Cup debutants.

"You feel their presence and what I respect most about them is their awareness," says Ta'avao. "A lot of times, you can get caught in a rut in a game and you're not aware what's going on." 

And with the All Blacks possibly in Japan for as long as eight weeks, a rut is exactly what they must avoid, if they're to be the ones singing karaoke after the World Cup final.

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