USA Eagles to take on New Zealand All Blacks in Chicago

USA Eagles to take on New Zealand All Blacks in Chicago

CHICAGO, Ill. – The reigning IRB Rugby World Cup Champion New Zealand All Blacks will play their first match in the United States since 1980 Saturday, Nov. 1, at Soldier Field in Chicago against the Men’s Eagles, USA Rugby and New Zealand Rugby announced at a press conference Tuesday.

Following the sold-out match between the Eagles, the United States’ National Senior Men’s rugby union team, and the New Zealand Maori All Blacks at PPL Park in Philadelphia, Pa., last November, USA Rugby and New Zealand Rugby Official Sponsor American International Group, Inc. (NYSE: AIG) will again unite the two nations as title sponsor of the game.

NBC will provide national broadcast coverage for the 2:30 P.M. CT kickoff.

“We have taken big steps to increase the profile of rugby in the United States with our international games drawing record crowds, but nothing on the scale of a match against the New Zealand All Blacks,” USA Rugby Chief Executive Officer Nigel Melville said. “The Maori All Blacks offered a taste of the rugby tradition one can expect from New Zealand and we have no doubt the All Blacks will raise the level of play for the Eagles as they prepare for the World Cup and create a special event for rugby supporters around the world.”

The Eagles, the most recent qualifier for next year’s World Cup in England, will face the No. 1-ranked team in the world ahead of the All Blacks’ Air New Zealand European Tour in the following weeks.

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“We are very excited to be taking the All Blacks to a part of the world we know is incredibly keen on all sports and where we believe there is a real thirst to see the style of rugby we are famous for,” New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said.

The All Blacks have only played the United States three times since their inception, the first in Berkeley, Calif., in 1913. An exhibition match in San Diego, Calif., in 1980 drew a record crowd for a rugby match in North America. The most recent meeting between the two sides occurred at IRB Rugby World Cup 1991 England, where the All Blacks finished third.

“It goes without saying, but playing the New Zealand All Blacks is a rugby player’s dream,” Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin said. “It’s no different as a coach. Although this test match is a massive challenge, we want to play against the world’s best. This will also be the perfect opportunity to showcase American rugby, as well as growing the game in the United States with one of the biggest names in the sport.”

“The All Blacks have only played the USA three times and all of those games have been spread out over a long time, so having the chance to play in the States itself and particularly in Chicago, a city with so much sporting history, as well, is really exciting,” All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said. “Tactically, obviously when you have a different opposition – in any sport – you have got to appreciate what they do and what they bring and make sure you have got the tools in the toolbox to combat that.”

The match at Soldier Field will be the seventh time Chicago has hosted the Eagles since 1976. Rockne Stadium has seen the likes of France, Canada, and Japan on its pitch, while the Eagles played Canada and Wales at Toyota Park two years after the stadium opened in 2006.

“We are thrilled to host the New Zealand All Blacks and the USA Rugby Eagles at Soldier Field this fall,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This international event will be welcomed by our many sports enthusiasts and is a tremendous opportunity to showcase our great city to the rest of the world.”

Soldier Field, opened in 1924, is the home of the National Football League’s Chicago Bears and seats more than 63,000 spectators. The Bears have a bye week leading up to the Eagles’ match against the All Blacks and are away from home on either side of the test. Chicago is a sports-mad city with professional sport organizations in each of the five major sports leagues in the United States.

“USA Rugby is continuously looking to host events in new areas of the country and could not be happier with the prospect of playing in one of the most iconic venues in America,” Melville said. “Chicago has been thirsty for international rugby for some time; I’m positive the city and the American rugby community will welcome both teams and fans from not only the United States, but around the world with open arms.”

“We think Chicago and Soldier Field is a great fit for both sides,” Tew said. “I visited Soldier Field recently and this is a stadium with a huge atmosphere, rich history and wonderful facilities and a ground which has never hosted a rugby match, so this will be an unforgettable afternoon of sports action.”

“Hosting this prestigious international rugby match is an honor,” Chicago Sports Commission Interim Executive Director Kara Bachman said. “It’s extremely meaningful for Chicago and a testament to the great vision and work of our CVB under CEO Don Welsh’s leadership that major, internationally-renowned teams like the New Zealand All Blacks want to come here.”

The Eagles’ match against the All Blacks on NBC will be the first international rugby match to be broadcast on national network television since the IRB Rugby World Cup 2011. NBC will also broadcast next year’s World Cup in England.

“We are excited to have the defending World Cup Champion New Zealand All Blacks back on NBC versus Team USA,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC and NBCSN. “The matchup between these two prestigious rugby teams will take place exactly one year to the date of the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final, which will also air on NBC.”

In conjunction with Tuesday’s announcement, USA Rugby and AIG will be introducing the Rookie Rugby program to more than 200 local schools and community organizations in the greater Chicagoland area this year to spread the all-inclusive rugby culture. Rookie Rugby is USA Rugby’s non-contact, flag version of rugby aimed at teaching young athletes the game and the importance of teamwork and respect for opponents, coaches, and referees alike.

“The meeting of these two teams for only the third time in one hundred years on U.S. soil represents a tremendous milestone for the sport of rugby, and is an embodiment of AIG’s ongoing global commitment to the sport,” Joseph Fitzpatrick, President, Midwest Region for AIG Property Casualty, said. “We are proud to stand behind both teams, and are thrilled to partner together to support the advancement of rugby throughout the world and here at home in Chicago.”

The match will be broadcast live from Chicago on NBC Saturday, Nov. 1, with kickoff scheduled for 2:30 P.M. CT. Tickets will be released to the general public June 16. Register for special pre-sale and preferred seating opportunities by June 1 on www.usavallblacks.com.

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Comments (57)

  • Guest (Ryan)

    Yeesssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Guest (USA)

    Awesome news for USA rugby...

  • Guest (Chanda)

    Seeing the New Zealand play is one my bucket list. Somehow, someway I will see this match!

  • Guest (Bob)

    In reply to: Guest (Chanda)

    You may watch (the) television... "... NBC will provide national broadcast coverage for the 2:30 P.M. CT kickoff..."

  • Guest (cantwait)

    this could be a dream come true! If our eagles can play the world class defense they have shown against the likes of ireland, Maori ABs, and italy, and we can get our overseas players to produce on offense this could be a huge opportunity for the game in the USA!

  • Guest (Maka Lenu)

    I am kiwi hard. This means ( I love my country) I have been looking forward to seeing this game for a while now. I hope the USA team can give our All Blacks a good game. I saw the USA team play in the last world cup. I was very, very impressed. Your team has guts and spirit. I also saw a lot of hart in every single player on the USA team when I saw them last here playing in NZ. The only thing that is missing is more game time in Top level super rugby. It is there they will find and gain the necessary experience to beat the All blacks one day? I hope the USA put a team in for the super rugby game in the near future. I am so excited and looking forward too see the game play on USA soil. Sorry USA the All Black are going to bash your team side to side. Go the All Blacks, Kia Kaha!...........................

  • Guest (Shane)

    Great news that this has finally been announced. Have been so excited since the first rumours were spread back in November. I'm a proud kiwi living in Chicago and due to marry a local this summer. The moment I knew I had to marry her was when she was too nervous in the final of the last rugby World Cup that she had to stay in the toilet for the last 5mins. A true AB's fan! It has not taken long for friends and family to ask for me to delay the wedding until Nov. I'm very tempted! Will aim to get as many american friends to the game as that is the easiest way for me to introduce them to the game as opposed to me discussing the ins and outs of the tackle ball area. Great to see NBC giving live coverage. Can't wait to enjoy some pre and post drinks talking rugby banter with all rugby fans.

  • Guest (paul)

    In reply to: Guest (Shane)

    am happy the states get to play the all blacks.but alittle weary .iv always said to friend of mind if american's really got interested in rugby full time they will be unbeatable.eg The black sportsmen.and some of white nfl players.enough said.even the average nfl player could be trouble for most nations but it would take 10 to 20 years before that happens

  • Guest (Tdog25)

    In reply to: Guest (paul)

    Let's not deal in what if's aye, nothing worse than someone talking rubbish with nothing to back it up, rugby is a. Different game all together, if we were going on population size and money of a country then nz. Would be dead last , yet we are the most dominate international team worldwide.

  • Guest (Bob)

    In reply to: Guest (Tdog25)

    Someone forgot about Fiji and Samoa.

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