Rugby may have trouble making a blip on the sporting radar in Chicago but the Irish will be demanding every All Black's attention.

There's enough pedigree among the Irish side and bags of coaching clues from Joe Schmidt to make them believe they can join the Chicago Cubs and create history in the Windy City.

In their last meeting three years ago, Ireland had a breakthrough win in their nostrils. Dublin was gearing up for a party to end all festivities until the fat lady came crooning.

Johnny Sexton fluffed a penalty and the visitors manufactured a superb length-of-the-field try, converted on the second attempt by Aaron Cruden. History went down the gurgler.


For the bulk of the intervening three years, the All Blacks have kept the global opposition in the loser's corner. They have added to their playing depth with a powerful mix of energy and skilled athleticism.

Ireland have been more circumspect. They have built layers of knowledge and excellence on to the natural flavour and undoubted courage in their rugby under the detailed guidance of Schmidt.

There's been talk about how Ireland will be stronger for round two in their fortress in a fortnight when more of their men will be fully fit but Schmidt will be eyeing tomorrow as a golden stage for a coup.

The All Blacks have been shorn of some forward sting and Ireland will be urged on by the bulk of the crowd at Soldier Field.

If the Irish see a great chance, so should All Black halfback Aaron Smith, who has been missing from rugby for almost two months. His game suits the All Blacks' strategies, although his last match against the Boks in Christchurch was average.

So, too, George Moala, who has sneaked a start ahead of the fitful Malakai Fekitoa and whose power and straight running may be too much for the Irish.

Finesse is a work in progress for Moala but his offloads are improving. If he gets enough ball, his impact should be too potent for the Irish.

When the All Blacks stopped off at Soldier Field two years ago, they mixed up their selection and easily mopped up the United States Eagles. It was a drive-by snack, while Ireland loom as a complicated main course.