November 24, 2023

Gallagher Chiefs, Blues take pre-season to Japan

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The Gallagher Chiefs and Blues are taking pre-season on the road this February, with the newly established ‘Cross-Border Rugby 2024’ seeing the two New Zealand DHL Super Rugby Pacific sides take on four teams from Japan Rugby’s League One.

The matches will take place in early February, with an eye towards making the exchange a regular fixture on the rugby calendar in the coming years.

The Gallagher Chiefs will reunite with former teammate Lachlan Boshier when they face the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights on February 4. The following weekend they will play the Kubota Spears Funabashi - Tokyo Bay, who All Blacks hooker Dane Coles recently joined.

Chiefs Rugby Club CEO, Simon Graafhuis said: ‘’The MOU signed between Japan Rugby Union (JPU) and New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has created a fantastic opportunity to take the Gallagher Chiefs outside of the traditional markets of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, and along with the Blues we will get a chance to showcase the New Zealand style of Super Rugby.

“We know from the excitement shown by JRU around the competition, and the response from locals to All Black and All Black XV games, there will be good demand for the games. Hopefully, this will help us grow our fan base in Japan.”

Graafhuis also highlighted the longstanding relationship the club has with Japan.

“We have been fortunate to historically collaborate with the Kobelco Kobe Steelers. There has been a strong connection through past coaches and players in the Kobe environment – people like Wayne Smith, Dave Rennie, Dave Dillon and Nick Holten have been involved with coaching both the Kobe and the Gallagher Chiefs. On the playing side, some great Chiefs have played for Kobe, including Aaron Cruden, Brodie Retallick and Bryn Gatland.’’

Meanwhile, Japan Rugby League One Chairman, Genichi Tamatsuka, said he was thrilled to welcome the Kiwi sides to Japan.

“Fans, get ready for world-class rugby,” he said.

“This marks the realization of our plan to host matches between top-level club teams and League One teams since the inception of our league.”

“We see this as an opportunity to showcase the presence and value of Japan Rugby League One on the global stage and are preparing for an exceptional event, with potential expansion in mind,” he said.

New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson was equally excited for the opportunity.

“It is great to see the Gallagher Chiefs and Blues playing pre-season matches in Japan, this was one of the opportunities we identified when signing the Memorandum of Understanding with Japan Rugby earlier this year so it’s nice to see it come to fruition.”

Match Schedule:
Match 1: February 3, 2024 (Saturday) - Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath vs Blues at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium

Match 2: February 4, 2024 (Sunday) - Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights vs Gallagher Chiefs at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium

Match 3: February 10, 2024 (Saturday) - Kubota Spears Funabashi-Tokyo Bay vs Gallagher Chiefs at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium

Match 4: February 10, 2024 (Saturday) - Yokohama Canon Eagles vs Blues at Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium

NZ: Sky Sport
Japan: J-Sports & J-Sports On Demand

All media enquiries to [email protected]

Gallagher Chiefs, Blues take pre-season to Japan