• Kiwi Spring Tour of the North Will Test All Blacks Mettle

    If ever there was a place that could be described as being in the middle of nowhere, New Zealand in one of the places that comes to mind.

    We do not intend to be unkind; there are other islands in the Pacific Ocean that would fall into the same classification. The same can be said of locations in the middle of continents as well, so no slight directed toward the Kiwis.

    We bring it up only to show that when the All Blacks embark on a tour of the north for a month beginning in late October, they will be crossing time zones and logging serious air miles.

    Their itinerary is one that merely reading makes us suffer from jet lag. Admittedly, simply adjusting the clocks twice a year for the semi-annual futility of DST and Standard Time leaves us out of sorts for weeks.

    The All Blacks start with Australia, head next to Japan and then over to England. A short hop to Ireland will be followed with a visit to Italy.

    It will at least provide some preparation for 2019 World Cup play, when the finals present the challenge of consecutive weekends of distant travel.

    The good news is that the ABs will have three tests in Japan, site of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. They will play two tests against the Wallabies and one against Japan’s Brave Blossoms.

    With the recent decline in the fortunes of England and the rise of Ireland, Steve Hansen’s men may well want to take notes on the Irish for purposes of future reference. This far out, the tests in Ireland could well be barometers for the World Cup.

    Hansen has been through the drill before and he frequently avails himself of the opportunity to blood new players, test his strategies and use the world tour as a way to give his players additional experience at the demands of travel and adapting to time shifts.

    The expectation is that Hansen will use his top group of players for the Aussies, England and Ireland, and give his up-and-comers plenty of ground time against Italy and Japan.