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Rugby: Japan ‘special’ venue for World Cup, All Blacks captain says

The All Blacks have embraced Japan and are looking forward to contesting the Rugby World Cup in a «special» country, New Zealand captain Kieran Read said Saturday after leading his side to a 37-20 win over Australia in the Bledisloe Cup.

Following the victory in front of 46,143 at Nissan Stadium — a Japanese record attendance for a test match — the 33-year-old Read said his team had been deeply moved by the way they had been received in Japan.

«It’s a special place, Japan. We’ve found out this week how special it is and really embraced it,» said Read, whose team’s focus has turned from the Wallabies to next Saturday’s test against Japan at the same venue.

«We’ve got some really great fans here as well, who have really shown us great support through the week, so we’re looking forward to continuing that next week against Japan.»

(Read (R) goes on the attack)

The No. 8 said the Bledisloe match had provided a valuable opportunity to face world-class opposition at the venue for New Zealand’s World Cup 2019 opener against South Africa, as well as the ground where the tournament final will take place.

«In terms of the information that we’ll get for next year from the game, it was awesome to see the crowd that turned out tonight,» he said.

«But really we’ve had an awesome week here in Japan. It’s been fantastic. The hotel we’ve stayed at, the facilities we’ve used, has been really top notch, so it was really good for us to get used to that, because we’ll be using those same facilities in a year’s time. And so I’m really looking forward to coming back.»

Read’s opposite number, Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, echoed his sentiments toward the reception from Japanese fans.

«We love playing here in Japan. We played here last year, fantastic crowd, played here this year again, fantastic crowd,» the 26-year-old flanker said.

«We want to thank the crowd for the way they acknowledged our players after the game. That was really genuine and nice for the players to feel at home here. We’ll be doing our best to play as many games here in Yokohama as possible.»

Australian outside center Israel Folau said the Wallabies hoped to make a return visit to the stadium for the World Cup final on Nov. 2 next year.

«The vision is to try and be there and make the final of the World Cup here, but it’s obviously a journey along the way and you can’t look too far ahead. But the opportunity today was amazing. The atmosphere was great as well so we really enjoyed it,» he said.

Asked by local journalists what he liked about Japan, the former rugby league international replied, «the food,» before specifying that his favorite dish was ramen.

Despite the All Blacks’ air of invincibility, they will not be taking Japan lightly next Saturday, according to flanker Liam Squire, who scored New Zealand’s opening try.

«The way (Japan) play is very exciting. They’re a team that’s definitely building, like we’ve seen in the World Cup, they tipped over South Africa, so on their day I think they can beat (any) team,» he said.

All — Kyodo News+

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