World champions New Zealand will test some new combinations in Saturday’s rugby union test against Japan in Tokyo in preparation for the sterner fixtures awaiting them in Europe during the November internationals.
The All Blacks, unbeaten in 10 tests this year, will play the 2011 World Cup finalists France on November 9 followed by matches against England and Ireland.
Nine players are flying directly to Paris to prepare for the France match but fans at the 25,000-seat Prince Chichibunomiya Stadium in Tokyo will still have the opportunity to see two of New Zealand’s greatest ever players in action.
The win over Wales showed Japan are a pretty good team. We will have to be on our game this weekend and will have to get our preparation right to play well
Coach Steve Hansen told reporters last week that captain Richie McCaw would play at least 40 minutes at loose forward while flyhalf Dan Carter would also take the field.
Both players have been troubled by injuries this year as they set their sights on the 2015 World Cup in England.
Saturday’s match will be the first between the two sides outside the World Cup after the All Blacks defeated Japan 83-7 two years ago and 145-17 in 1995.
Japan recorded a famous 23-8 win over Wales this year and assistant All Blacks coach Ian Foster said his side expected the home side to come out fighting.
“We respect what they do and will have to do well to beat them,” he told reporters after the All Blacks’ first training session.
“We have got a lot of new combinations so the focus today was on cementing running lines and improving the options.”
Specialist wing Ben Smith, who scored a record eight tries in the Rugby Championship this year, will play again at outside centre in place of Conrad Smith, who is taking a sabbatical from rugby.
“I am learning as I go and have got a wee bit to pick up,” Smith said.
“The win over Wales showed Japan are a pretty good team. We will have to be on our game this weekend and will have to get our preparation right to play well.”