If you’re reading Bleacher Blast, chances are you follow Rugby NorCal. And if you do, you’ll be just as excited to learn that USA Rugby and TLA Worldwide announced the greatest stars in professional rugby will again return to Chicago, IL for “The Rugby Weekend” on Friday, November 4th and Saturday, November 5th for two separate, yet both spectacular, international rugby matches.
“The Rugby Weekend” will open on Friday, November 4 at Toyota Park as the USA Rugby Eagles take on the Maori All Blacks. The following night, fans will witness the current defending World Cup Champion New Zealand All Blacks against the defending RBS 6 Nations Champions, Ireland. The day-two match will be played on Saturday, November 5th at historic Soldier Field.
Tickets for “The Rugby Weekend” will go on sale April 1, but it is recommended that fans visit “The Rugby Weekend” to sign up for early ticket alerts.
“We are looking forward to another fabulous weekend for rugby in the United States with our return to Chicago in November,” said USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville. “The city and its fans have shown the world how passionate they are about the sport, and we think this weekend will again take the game’s popularity to another level.”
The last time the All Blacks took to the pitch in the United States, a record crowd of over 61,500 filled Soldier Field on November 1, 2014, in what was unquestionably the biggest rugby event in the history of the United States. This will mark just the fourth time since the team’s inception that the World Champions will play in America and the latest since it became the first international rugby team to go back to back as World Cup Champions in October 2015.
“We have very fond memories of playing in Chicago in 2014,” said New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew. “We really appreciated the efforts of the city in rolling out the welcome mat for rugby. We know American fans had a very special experience and we expect a whole new group of fans to enjoy what will be a unique showcase of top class rugby over consecutive days.
“The Maori All Blacks play an exciting brand of rugby and are fantastic ambassadors for our culture and our country, so this is a great way to kick off “The Rugby Weekend” before the All Blacks take on Ireland the following day,” he said.
The Irish Rugby Football Union is the reigning RBS 6 Nations champions, a title the team has held twelve times outright and shared eight times.
“We are delighted to be involved in “The Rugby Weekend” and look forward to playing the World Champions in the great city of Chicago,” said IRFU Director of Commercial and Marketing Padraig Power. “Irish Americans will relish seeing the Ireland Rugby team contribute further to the development of the game of rugby in the U.S., complimenting the wonderful growth of the game to date.”
The Maori All Blacks are an elite rugby union team from New Zealand. A prerequisite for playing for this team is that the player is to have Maori whakapapa or genealogy. This will be the fourth time the USA Eagles will face the Maori All Blacks, the last time being in Philadelphia in September of 2013 before a sold-out crowd of 18,500 attendees.
“We at TLA Worldwide are pleased to be a promotional partner of this historic weekend in Chicago. We have taken great pride in working for the past two years with USA Rugby, the All Blacks, the great city of Chicago and the Chicago Sports Commission, to bring unprecedented rugby matches to the pitch in Soldier Field.” said Bart Campbell, TLA Worldwide Group Chairman.
For the third year in a row, Chicago-based Astellas Pharma has signed on as the Official Healthcare Partner of the weekend.
“As a global company on the forefront of healthcare change, Astellas is proud to once again be a part of bringing international rugby back to Chicago, a great sporting city and the headquarters for Astellas in the Americas,” said James Robinson, president, Astellas Pharma US. “We look forward to working with these great teams to use this rugby weekend as a platform to engage rugby fans around the world in a dialogue around the importance of living a healthy, active lifestyle.”
Astellas will be joined by Rugby Union team sponsors AIG, 3 and Emirates.
About USA Rugby
Established in 1975, USA Rugby is the governing body for the sport of rugby in America and a Full Sport Member of the United States Olympic Committee. Currently headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, USA Rugby is charged with developing the game on all levels and has more than 125,000 active members, with more than 32,000 playing collegiate rugby and 27,000 playing senior club rugby. USA Rugby oversees four national teams, multiple collegiate and high school All-American sides, and an emerging Olympic development pathway for elite athletes. It also hosts more than 30 national playoff and championship events each year as a service to its members. In October 2009, the International Olympic Committee announced Rugby Sevens (the seven-a-side version of the game) will appear in the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro. Visit www.usarugby.org for more information.
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