TODAY |

New Zealand Armed Forces' rugby side travel to Japan for World Cup of their own


For members of the New Zealand Defence Force, going into battle is something that they're trained to do - only this time their battlefield will be the rugby fields of Japan.

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Members of the NZ Defence Force will take on the likes of Fiji, Britain and France. Source: 1 NEWS

The second Kiwi team to travel to Japan this week, the Defence Blacks will take part in a tournament of their own, up against the likes of the armed forces of Fiji, Britain and France.

Former Manawatu midfielder Corporal Jaxon Tagavaitau will lead the side at the Defence World Cup, confident in his charges.

"I know they've got the mana and the pride to do their best," he told 1 NEWS.

"Very privileged to pull on that jersey, and a real honour to lead the boys on the battlefield."

His first challenge comes in having to bring together members of the Army, Navy and Air Force, seeing them play and train as a complete unit.

"Yeah, it's frustrating at times. Boys coming from different parts of the service, but I'm positive the boys will get together, get that culture going and get on that field and do that job."

They do have an advantage, though, with All Blacks legend Buck Shelford a patron of the Defence Blacks.

"Our fore-bearers went to war, our All Blacks went to war back in the day and I think in the first World War we lost 13 All Blacks," Shelford told the group.

"You guys are actually prepared to go to war, and so you become really close.

"The camaraderie within the military is probably tighter than what it was when I was in the All Blacks, or playing for Auckland or North Harbour."

The Defence Blacks open their World Cup next Sunday, hoping to set the tone for the All Blacks come their title defence beginning on September 21.