VIA USA Rugby
CHICAGO - USA Rugby and TLA Worldwide today announced the starting times for “ The Rugby Weekend Presented by AIG ” Nov. 4 and 5 in Chicago. The USA Men's Eagles will open the weekend against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks Friday at 7 p.m. CT under the lights of the 18,000-seat Toyota Park before the two-time defending Rugby World Cup Champions New Zealand All Blacks take on world No. 6 Ireland Saturday, Nov. 5, in a 3 p.m. CT afternoon kickoff at the 62,000-capacity Soldier Field.
The entrance gates at Soldier Field will open two hours prior to kickoff Saturday. Fans are encouraged to arrive at the venue early to witness the world-famous New Zealand All Blacks Haka, a traditional warcry performed by the entire All Blacks squad before each match.
“The anticipation for these matches grows with each passing week and we are pleased to announce the start times for both matches, which will allow fans to make firm plans for a great Rugby Weekend. There are limited tickets available for both games and now that kickoff times have been confirmed, we expect the few tickets left to move briskly,” said Mike Principe, CEO of TLA Worldwide.
Tickets for the doubleheader are on sale via Ticketmaster from $22 (Friday) and $33 (Saturday), and less than 25 percent remain available for purchase. In addition to the tickets remaining, select premier sideline seats for the Friday matchup at Toyota Park are now available to the general public. Those seats can also be purchased via Ticketmaster.
"‘The Rugby Weekend Presented by AIG’ is the latest in a line of historic rugby events set for American venues, building on the membership growth seen by USA Rugby and the momentum from Rio 2016,” USA Rugby Chief Executive Officer Dan Payne said. “We’re excited to be welcomed back to the great city of Chicago – which has a thriving youth culture in Rugby Illinois and clubs that have reached domestic National Championships – and want to showcase the country’s appetite for high-level rugby to the world. With the Eagles’ match in primetime and an early start to ‘Saturday is a Rugby Day,’ we’re expecting two sell-outs in what will be an enormously historic weekend of rugby in Chicago.”
The last time the All Blacks took to the pitch in the United States, a record crowd of 61,500 filled Soldier Field Nov. 1, 2014, in what was unquestionably the most highly attended single rugby event in the history of the United States. This will mark just the fourth time since the team’s inception that the All Blacks will play in America and the latest since it became the first international rugby team to repeat as World Cup Champion in October 2015.
The Irish Rugby Football Union is ranked No. 6 in the World Rankings. The team has won the 6 Nations Championship 13 times, including the most recent in 2015.
The Maori All Blacks, an elite side from New Zealand featuring players with Maori 'whakapa,' or genealogy, are returning to the U.S. for the first time since 2013, when they played before a sell-out crowd in Philadelphia. Newly rehired Head Coach Colin Cooper will lead the team in America once again, with the intent of developing full All Blacks as well as respecting the culture of the team's native roots.
"Maori rugby is already so rich in history, and is an important part of New Zealand Rugby history," Coopersaid at the announcement of his hire earlier this month. "But I also think the Maori All Blacks team is really finding its place in the High Performance arena as we have seen from the selection of players into the All Blacks."
In addition to presenting sponsor AIG, which has sponsored international tests at Soldier Field each of the past two years and brought the Maori All Blacks to the U.S. in 2013, Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma, whose headquarters for the Americas is located just outside of Chicago, has signed on as Official Healthcare Partner for the event for the third year in a row. Citi has also been confirmed as a sponsor of the Weekend.
Along with the weekend partners, Guinness and McDonald’s are sponsoring the New Zealand v. Ireland match, and USA Rugby Union lead sponsor Emirates will be an official sponsor of USA v. Maori All Blacks.
Accompanying the matches, USA Rugby Trust will be hosting its Chicago Gala Thursday, Nov. 3. For those interested in supporting rugby in the United States and spending a once-in-a-lifetime evening with members of the elite rugby community, plates at USA Rugby Trust's Chicago Gala at Macy's on State Street start at $250 per person. Featuring a panel discussion with former international players, the Gala will include dinner, a silent and live auction, and a VIP cocktail reception. All funds raised from the Chicago Gala will benefit USA Rugby Trust, furthering its mission to support, promote, develop, and grow the sport of rugby at all levels in the United States by providing financial support to USA Rugby. More information on the Chicago Gala can be found on the USA Rugby website. Potential sponsorship inquiries can be directed to Event and Donor Relations Manager Jessica Welsh (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Additional details for the matches, including broadcast partners, will be announced in the coming weeks.