Having begun their end-of-year Test run with a third successive Bledisloe Cup win over Australia, New Zealand move on to Japan this weekend.
After a disappointing 2013 stretch, the Cherry Blossoms have won all of their last three matches, morale boosting wins coming against Wales, Canada and USA.
That being said, the All Blacks hold a different proposition entirely, and this summer, they established themselves as the world’s best side, maintaining a 100 percent Rugby Championship record.
Before moving on to Europe, Steve Hansen’s side will be looking at this Tokyo fixture as something of a warm-up match but will by no means be taking the host threat lightly.
Date: Saturday, November 2
Time: 4 p.m. Local Time/5 a.m. BST/1 a.m. ET
Venue: Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo
Viewing Info: Fox Sports 3 (AUS), SuperSport 5 (RSA), J Sports 1 (JPN) Sky Sport 1 (NZL) Not available in UK.
After missing out on the accolade due to injury in the Rugby Championship, this autumn will once again give Dan Carter his chance to earn his 100th New Zealand Test cap, beginning with the trip to Japan.
The Crusader has been confirmed as Steve Hansen’s starting fly-half this Saturday in a return that sees Aaron Cruden drop out of the squad and Tom Taylor fill in as backup from the bench.
Arguably the finest No. 10 of his generation, the Tokyo fixture will be a great transition for Carter coming back into the international fold after a six-week absence.
Key All Blacks Absences
If the All Blacks’ Rugby Championship dominance was any sign of their dominance as the world’s in-form side, then Kieran Read certainly went some way to proving himself as the finest No. 8 there is to offer.
There’s no doubt that if Hansen’s men are to establish their hold over the Northern Hemisphere, too, Read will play a monumental part in that pursuit, so it’s understandable that he might be rested for this encounter.
Still just 25 years of age, Sam Whitelock has gone through a passage of maturing in the last year, forming one of the most formidable second-row pairing in the world alongside Brodie Retallick.
The second youngest of the four Whitelock brothers has grown to become the most internationally established of his siblings but gives way to a new lock partnership this weekend.
Jeremy Thrush and Dominic Bird have, in their own right, shown the kind of promise that warrants their inclusion for an outing such as this, but there’s no questioning who should be starting when it comes to this autumn’s more difficult fixtures.
Since making his All Blacks debut in 2012, Julian Savea’s rise to international prominence has been nothing short of meteoric.
The 23-year-old has gone on to earn comparisons with New Zealand great Jonah Lomu, illustrating just how potent his combination of pace, power and agility has truly been.
Granted, there’s some technical aspects of his game that are lacking, but Savea will be a missed source of excitement against the Japanese defence, whom he would have undoubtedly sought to soar against, just as he did Australia, Argentina and South Africa’s in the Rugby Championship.
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