Rugby-Japan to host France in two tests in July

(Reuters) - Japan will play France for the first time since 2017 when they host Les Bleus in two matches in early July, the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) said in a statement on Monday.

The series for the Lipovitan D Challenge Cup will begin at Toyota Stadium in Aichi on July 2, with the teams meeting again on July 9 at an unnamed venue, the JRFU said.

"On behalf of the JRFU and the entire Japanese rugby family, I would like to express our sincere delight that the French national team will tour Japan this summer," said JRFU President Shigetaka Mori.

"Les Bleus are playing remarkably well in the Six Nations Championship and continue to develop a potent style of play, combining power and speed with their traditional flair.

"With France due to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023, they are emerging as strong contenders for their home tournament."

Japan reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup on home soil but did not play in 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak, returning to action after 18 months against the British & Irish Lions in June 2021.

The Brave Blossoms won only one of their six matches last year, against Portugal.

"As a result of the global pandemic, Japanese rugby fans have missed out on regular test match rugby being played in Japan," Mori said.

"This series is therefore an important opportunity for us to reconnect with our fans, and I am certain the rugby family in Japan will be looking forward to reliving the enthusiasm and excitement that they experienced during Rugby World Cup 2019."

France were held to a 23-23 draw at home by Japan the last time the teams met in November 2017.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by David Goodman)

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