Ireland to face All Blacks in Chicago next year

The IRFU has hit paydirt with the news that the national team is set to face New Zealand in Chicago’s Soldier Field next November.

Ireland to face All Blacks in Chicago next year

The All Blacks and the Wallabies have played at the home of the Chicago Bears NFL side in recent years, both against the host nation, and it has been reported that the world champions and the Wallabies received $1m each for their appearances from USA Rugby.

The game between the world champions and the USA drew a capacity 61,500 crowd last year, while also drawing in almost one million viewers on TV, although the Australian fixture, held prior to the World Cup two months ago, managed to attract just 23,000.

That will surely inform the financial side of things this time around, but the opportunity remains a gilded one for the Irish union which will surely use the occasion to drum up interest, support and connections among the influential and potentially lucrative Irish diaspora in the States.

Media in New Zealand had previously reported that a curtain-raiser, probably between NZ Maori and the USA, will also be on the bill. While an occasion to savour, it will demand yet more from Joe Schmidt’s men, already in the midst of a marathon season.

The four provinces’ Irish internationals congregated in national camp for pre-season at the start of July and their campaign will stretch 12 months this time around, with a three-Test tour against the Springboks on South Africa’s sun-baked grounds bringing it all to a close.

Confirmation of the game against the All Blacks in Solider Field in a year’s time was not officially confirmed by the IRFU or their NZRU counterparts as of last night, but confirmation is expected imminently.

The game in America’s ‘Second City’ would obviously involve a transatlantic trip there and back and would add to the workload for a squad that is also expected to face the world champions back in Dublin in a second game to be sandwiched by meetings with a tier two nation and Australia.

It will be the first time since the November window in 2010, when Ireland faced South Africa, Samoa, New Zealand and Argentina, that the national team will feature in a quartet of games in that period and it will inevitably impact on the provinces.

Ireland’s player management system is the envy of most other tier one nations, but the top players in Ireland face little let-up with a number sure to be selected for the Lions tour of New Zealand in the summer of 2017 as well.

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