All Blacks vs Wallabies: Japanese slow to embrace Rugby World Cup fever

There’s work needed to get the Japanese people behind the Rugby World Cup, if the preparations for the third Bledisloe Cup test at Yokohama are anything to go by.

The stadium is expected to be half full on Saturday, while the sport barely features on many locals’ radars.

Part of the motivation behind playing the New Zealand vs Australia encounter in Japan is to promote next year's world tournament.

For some Tokyo school kids, that meant a quick lesson on New Zealand and just who the All Blacks are.

Suddenly, they were very excited about a rugby lesson they were about to get from the world’s best.

"Obviously, they haven’t experienced it, but it’s good to pass on our knowledge and show them what rugby is about," said All Blacks flanker Liam Squire.

It’s very much a niche sport in Japan and more popular in some of the smaller cities.

Matt Todd, who now plays for Panasonic, just north of Tokyo, says the locals who do love the sport are good fans.

All Blacks vs Wallabies: Japanese slow to embrace Rugby World Cup fever

"They support their team and they’re passionate, and they can certainly get behind the game."

But in a big city, where there’s so much going on - so many bright lights and so many attractions - it’s easy to see how a rugby event could get lost among all the things to do

Selling out the stadium isn’t really the purpose of this venture for the All Blacks - reconnaissance is key.

"The hotel has been great," says coach Steve Hansen. "They’ve looked after us.

"The training facilities are superb. One or two things we were concerned about haven’t arisen so far.

"The traffic hasn’t been too bad and getting to training has been good."

And it proved simple to win some new young fans with their time, tickets to the game and a ball.


Join us at 7pm Saturday for live updates of All Blacks vs Wallabies Bledisloe Cup test at Yokohama.