Rugby: All Blacks to confirm Ireland clash in Chicago

The All Blacks performing the haka at Soldier Field. Photo / Getty
The All Blacks performing the haka at Soldier Field. Photo / Getty

Confirmation will come this week that the All Blacks are returning to Chicago where they will play Ireland at the same Soldier Field stadium where they beat the USA Eagles in 2014.

The test on November 5 will fulfil a long-held ambition of New Zealand Rugby, which has long coveted a fixture against Ireland in the USA. Ireland's connection with the States remains strong and the expectation is that the test will easily sell out given the volumes of American-based rugby fans with Irish heritage.

The test in Chicago creates a mini-series as the All Blacks will fly to Dublin to play Ireland two weeks later on November 19. In between they will play Italy, probably in Rome but not yet confirmed, and then finish their season with a clash against France - most likely in Paris.

USA Rugby will also announce this week that the Eagles will play New Zealand Maori on November 4 in Chicago. That game will be at Toyota Park - the home of Major League Soccer club Chicago Fire.

The double-header reflects New Zealand Rugby's desire to continue to help the game grow in the US. Despite the fact the Eagles were hammered by the All Blacks in 2014, the test generated huge interest within the US rugby community and heightened the profile of a sport which is among the fastest growing in North America.

With both the mens and womens US teams hoping to make an impact at the Rio Olympics, rugby could have another boom year in America - a market NZR is eyeing as much for the commercial as the playing possibilities.

Hosting two big games back-to-back in Chicago will also strengthen USA Rugby's bid to host the 2023 World Cup. The US has indicated its interest as a bidder and will potentially have significant support from established rugby unions who see the value of taking rugby to a massive economy.

- NZ Herald

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