All Blacks head to US for rare Test

Wed, 14 May 2014 08:38
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The All Blacks will play the United States in an historic Test match in Chicago on Saturday, November 1.

The All Blacks will play the United States in an historic Test match in Chicago on Saturday, November 1.

This will mark the first match between the two sides on American soil since 1980 and just the third official Test in front of what is expected to be a record crowd for a Rugby Union match in the United States.

The reigning World Cup champions, New Zealand, will take on the Eagles at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Following the sold-out match between the Eagles and the New Zealand Maori team at PPL Park in Philadelphia last November, USA Rugby and New Zealand Rugby Union decided to take it a step up.

"We have taken big steps to increase the profile of Rugby Union 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 offered a taste of the 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 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' European Tour in the following weeks.

"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, California, in 1913. An exhibition match in San Diego, California, in 1980 drew a record crowd for a Rugby Union match in North America. The most recent meeting between the two sides occurred at World Cup 1991, where the All Blacks finished third.

"It goes without saying, but playing the All Blacks is a player's dream," Eagles coach Mike Tolkin said.

"It's no different as a coach. Although this Test 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 US 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 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 in 2008.

Soldier Field, which opened in 1924, is the home of the National Football League's Chicago Bears and seats more than 63,000 spectators.

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said it was exciting to think that that All Blacks would be playing in the United States at a time when the USA Eagles and rugby in general were on the rise in the country.

"You look at the calibre of athletes you see playing basketball and NFL and if they put some real energy into rugby, there would be a fairly big pool to choose from. A lot of people don't know about the All Blacks in the US so it will be great to play a game there and show what rugby is all about."

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