All Blacks get Boks in World Cup opener

Author
Dylan Cleaver, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Nov 2017, 9:28PM
The Rugby World Cup 2019 draw sees the All Blacks start their campaign against South Africa - a repeat of the 2015 semifinal. (Photo / Photosport)
The Rugby World Cup 2019 draw sees the All Blacks start their campaign against South Africa - a repeat of the 2015 semifinal. (Photo / Photosport)

All Blacks get Boks in World Cup opener

Author
Dylan Cleaver, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Nov 2017, 9:28PM

The All Blacks' 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign hits a critical juncture just two days into the tournament.

The matches and venues for the tournament were drawn last night, with the All Blacks set to play the bulk of their matches at the biggest venues in Tokyo and Yokohama.

Of most interest to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and his team will be their pivotal Pool B match against South Africa, likely to prove the difference between a difficult or more comfortable quarter-final.

This will take place in Yokohama on September 21, which leaves no room for a relaxed build-up to the showpiece event.

If current form continues, the winner of that clash will set themselves up for a quarter-final against Scotland or Japan in Tokyo, while the loser faces a possible meeting with Ireland, also in Tokyo.

Japanese officials are anxious to make this tournament, which World Rugby president Bill Beaumont described as "groundbreaking", a resounding success. And New Zealand's popularity among Japanese fans has been reflected in the team's venues.

The spacing of New Zealand's games is not even.

Eleven days after the Springboks clash, they will play the repechage tournament winner at Oita Stadium, a 40,000-seat venue.

Just four days after that, Hansen's team will face a yet-to-be-decided African qualifier at the 50,000-seat Tokyo Stadium.

The African qualifier will be the team that tops next year's Africa Gold Cup, a round-robin competition featuring Kenya, Uganda, Morocco, Tunisia, Zimbabwe and favourites Namibia.

And six days after New Zealand's third match, they will round out pool play against Six Nations strugglers Italy at the 45,000 capacity City of Toyota Stadium.

Other eagerly anticipated pool matches included Six Nations rivals England and France, who clash at Yokohama on October 12. Also in Pool C are World Cup specialists Argentina, who meet France and England at Tokyo.

The fast-improving Wallabies are scheduled to meet Warren Gatland's Wales in a Pool D cracker at Tokyo on September 29.

Twelve venues from Sapporo in the north to Kumamoto in the south will play host to the ninth Rugby World Cup, the first to be staged outside a top-tier rugby nation.

The capacity ranges from Yokohama's 72,000-seat stadium to the 16,000-seat Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in the north of the country.

This will be a World Cup that doesn't cross borders or time zones. Travel times will be comfortable in this compact, island country with its modern, efficient transport infrastructure.

The final will be played in exactly two years from now at Yokohama's International Stadium, which hosted the 2002 Fifa World Cup final.

The quarter-finals will be shared between Oita and Tokyo, while both semifinals will be at Yokohama. The bronze final will be played at Tokyo, as will the September 20 tournament opener between hosts Japan and a European qualifier.

Tickets will go on sale from January 19 next year and will be priced between ¥2019 and ¥100,000 ($25-$1269), while there will also be children's tickets available for ¥1000.

All Blacks' pool matches:
September 21: 6.45pm: South Africa (Yokohama)

October 2: 7.15pm: Repechage Winner (Oita)

October 6: 1.45pm: Africa 1 (Tokyo)

October 12: 1.45pm: Italy (Aichi)

*All Japanese times