WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - Rugby world champion New Zealand is to play the United States in an international on Nov. 1 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, 34 years since they last played a match on American soil.
The match will be only the third official international between New Zealand’s All Blacks and the USA Eagles and the first in the United States since they met at San Diego in 1980.
Tickets will go on sale in June and United States rugby officials predict a crowd of up to 40,000 - a record for a rugby match in the United States. The test will also be broadcast live on NBC.
US Rugby chief executive Nigel Melville said rugby is growing rapidly in the United States “and to have the best team in the world and wonderful ambassadors for the game playing on our home soil for the first time in 34 years will be great for the game here.”
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said it was exciting to play in the United States where rugby had great potential for growth.
“You look at the caliber 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,” he said. “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.”
US Eagles backrower Louis Stanfill said the test at the 61,000-capacity Soldier Field would be “the biggest rugby match in American history to this point.”
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen welcomed the chance to play an opponent New Zealand has only rarely met at full international level.
“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 history and sporting history as well, is really exciting,” he said.
New Zealand will play the match on the way to Europe for its regular end-of-season tour and the team will spend a week in Chicago. The match is seen as an important element of both teams’ preparations for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Britain.