After rumors over the last months, USA Rugby and New Zealand Rugby confirmed on Tuesday that the All Blacks will travel to the US to face the Eagles on November 1 at Soldier Field in Chicago. This will be the first time the All Blacks have played in the U.S. since 1980.
NBC will air the match live which is tentatively set for 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff. This will be the first rugby match aired live on national network TV since the Rugby World Cup final in 2011.
“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. “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.”
But more important than the match-up is what the game could do to increase awareness of the sport in the U.S.
New Zealand is the reigning Rugby World Cup champion and the best known rugby team in the world. Most casual sports fans are familiar with the haka and the iconic all black jersey of the side. New Zealand sponsor American International Group, Inc will be the title sponsor.
“This is more than just a game between two teams,” Melville said in the UK’s The Guardian. “It’s an opportunity for us to showcase the world champions in our sport, in our domestic market.”
It is not all about the Eagles. New Zealand Rugby has been looking for more ways to increase brand exposure around the globe to help increase revenues. The All Blacks played Japan the end of last year in Tokyo. Japan is seen as another growing rugby market.
The big question for both teams will be their lineups. The match falls outside of the IRB’s schedule of official matches were club teams are required to release players. European clubs, especially, may be hesitant to release players during the season.
Melville is not too worried saying ‘we’ll do our best’ to call the top lineup.
The All Blacks and USA have played on 3 previous occasions. The last meeting was at the 1991 Rugby World Cup. The All Blacks won that Pool 1 match 46-6. A New Zealand XV’x beat the US 53-6 in 1980 in San Diego. And the All Blacks made a 12 match tour of the U.S. in 1913 that included a 51-3 test win over the USA in Berkeley, California.
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.