Rugby: All Blacks-Ireland clash in Chicago confirmed

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

The All Blacks are returning to Chicago. The world champions will play Ireland at the same Soldier Field stadium where they beat the USA Eagles in 2014.

The test on November 5 was confirmed today by New Zealand Rugby, as part of a double header that will see the Maori All Blacks face USA a day earlier at Chicago's Toyota Park.

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.

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 in Rome and then finish their season with a clash against France in Paris.

"It will certainly be a unique occasion for the team: playing Ireland in Chicago and then again in Dublin two weeks later," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.

"I'm sure All Blacks and Irish fans from all over North America and the world will descend on Chicago for what will be a truly historic match."

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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