The world champion All Blacks arrived in Tokyo Monday for their first test match against Japan on Japanese soil and vowed to take nothing for granted.
“It’s important that we start the tour well,” flyhalf Dan Carter said upon arrival at Tokyo’s Narita airport before Saturday’s game at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo.
“We’ve got some really important games away from home so we have to make sure we continue the momentum that we have built throughout the season and play well,” he told Kyodo News.
The rugby match against the Brave Blossoms will be the first of four games the All Blacks will play in their Northern Hemisphere tour next month.
Head coach Steve Hansen opted to send eight players directly to Europe to prepare for the France test on Nov. 9.
The full squad will also take on England on Nov. 16 and Ireland eight days later.
Aaron Cruden, who led New Zealand to the IRB Junior World Championship in Tokyo back in 2009, will join the squad later in the week for some promotional work before flying to France.
But there are still plenty of big names and World Cup winners on the 27-man squad, including Carter and captain Richie McCaw.
Carter said the All Blacks would not underestimate Japan despite its lowly No. 15 ranking.
“I think Japanese rugby is on a high at the moment, the club competition is very strong and they had a couple of great test matches against Wales,” he told Kyodo.
“You know, they beat Wales in the last test match so we have to make sure we do our homework on the Japan side so we can play well on Saturday.”
Since former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones took over the Brave Blossoms in April last year, Japan has beaten Georgia and Romania, its first test wins in Europe outside of a Rugby World Cup.
In June it upset an under-strength Wales at home.
But Jones has been in hospital since a stroke two weeks ago, while his technical adviser and former Wallaby skills coach Scott Wisemantel is in charge of the Braves.
The All Blacks have previously faced Japan twice, at the 1995 and 2011 World Cups. Japan lost both encounters, including a 145-17 drubbing in the 1995 tournament.