|Photo The Guardian|
New Zealand sources indicate that the USA Eagles will indeed be breaking new ground this year as the All Blacks are set to be confirmed as opening their end of year tour of the Hemisphere with a test against the USA on November 1. It is to be the first time that the USA has played host to New Zealand in the professional era and only the third match over all. The All Blacks previously played in the USA in 1913 and 1980.
Sources from New Zealand have confirmed Sunday November 2 as the date, which means it will be Saturday November 1 in the USA due to the time difference. The city to be allocated the fixture is Chicago with the home of the Chicago Bears, Soldier Field being the stadium. Soldier Field has a capacity of 61,500 and the NZRU has stated it believes 40,000 tickets or more will be sold. This being the case then USA Rugtby would not only pay the NZ$1 million to the All Blacks for the appearance fee but also make a notable profit.
The date of the fixture means that IRB Regulation 9 will come into play. The regulation exists to determine when clubs are required and not release players for the purpose of international competition. The law states that players are to be free to play three tests each November and, as such, the USA should, in theory, be able to field players contracted to clubs in England, France, Japan and Scotland so long as they play in no more than two others.
The match is to be the most significant home fixture of all time for the USA. Players such as Todd Clever, Scott LaValla, Samu Manoa, Blaine Scully and Chris Wyles will not have such an opportunity again. It is a once in a life time opportunity for the players and also comes at an ideal time for the administration. USA Rugby is looking to bid for the right to host the 2018 Rugby Sevens World Cup and
The NZRU considers the USA as being a vital market of significant potential and has plans of opening the end of year tours of Europe in a similar manner in future years. New Zealand played in Tokyo to begin its end of year tour in 2013 and also wants to return there. Another market set to be studied in detail is Canada which has grown substantially in recent times with Canada now able to have crowds of over 20,000 for tests in Toronto.
Although the NZRU policy is of great importance to the future of rugby in both countries and to Tier Two rugby in general it raises the question of the continued option from New Zealand, and Australia, of not regularly playing tests against Pacific Island nations. Not only are tests played against Fiji, Samoa and Tonga less than once a year but neither Australia or New Zealand has ever played a test in one of the three countries. Australia has lost tests against all three countries.