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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

All Blacks vs. Ireland, Eagles vs. Maori ABs Confirmed


U.S.A. Rugby has confirmed that the All Blacks will take on Ireland at Soldier Field in Chicago on November 5th. At the same time a fixture between the Maori All Blacks and the Eagles has been confirmed for the day before at Toyota Park. The event is being called "The Rugby Weekend. Ryan Crotty from the All Blacks and Tommy Bowe from Ireland, as well as Padraig Power from the IRFU, Nigel Cass from the NZRU, Nigel Melville from U.S.A. Rugby, and Bart Campbell from TLA Worldwide attended a press conference this morning to talk about the event.

None of the visiting teams are unfamiliar with coming to America. The All Blacks match against the Eagles is still an attendance record that may not be broken for awhile. Ireland played the U.S. back in the summer of 2013 to what had that point been the highest ever attended Eagles match. The U.S. also played the Maori All Blacks to a sold out crowd in Philadelphia in November 2013 before heading off Europe. The match, which the Eagles lost but competed hard in, was seen as a catalyst for a successful tour.

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As we've mentioned before, this could be a win-win for U.S.A. Rugby and Rugby International Marketing. The All Blacks proved in 2014 that they bring a big brand that turns out the fans. The same goes for Ireland but to a lesser extent. That said, because they are playing the All Blacks there could be more traveling fans. Just based on All Blacks and Ireland fans alone the match should be well attended. Throw in an increasingly interested U.S. fan base and there could be another sold out stadium. At the same time, having the match in Chicago once again and featuring teams the U.S. audience has already seen could take some shine off the event.

Additionally for U.S.A. Rugby, playing the Maori All Blacks the day before could provide another financial boom. For any All Blacks fans traveling to the match why not head out to Toyota Park (and it is a bit of a hike) to catch the Maori All Blacks. The match should already draw a number of U.S. fans. Plus, the U.S. will now gain a solid opponent ahead of their fall tour.

One concern for John Mitchell and his staff is whether he will be able to get his European pros for the match. The Eagles got some of their overseas players for the 2013 match against the Maori All Blacks but not all. Also, the team had to basically give up their entire November tour in 2014 with their top pros in order to get them available to play the All Blacks. How it shakes out in terms of availability is going to be interesting.

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