The New Zealand All Black arrived in Chicago Friday, and have hit the ground running. The have toured downtown, been to a Chicago Bulls game, and took time to meet Chicago area youth players on Saturday. Rugby Illinois hosted a clinic for the Illinois Tornadoes, high school state rugby select side team, along with the Wapiti and Chiefs youth programs, British International School of Chicago, and the Noble Network Schools, and the Chicago Riot Men's Club. Nearly 500 people came out to practices for matching coming up for The Rugby Weekend, as well as get some tips from the world's best rugby team.
Six of the All Blacks players made an appearance at Smith Park, and went over skills and drills, and took a few minutes of questions with each group rotation. Children ages 4 up to high school seniors came from near as a mile away and as far as 150 miles away. Any aged child you asked, they knew who the All Blacks were and were excited to see them in person. One father said, "This is an opportunity people living in New Zealand don't even get, we are so excited to be here." John Dardis, who is part of the Arlington Stallions U12 club said
" I have been playing rugby ever since I could walk. I am excited to get to play next weekend in front of 22,000 people at half time, and getting to see the All Blacks play is going to be amazing."
This is Chicago's third time being able to host international rugby teams. This time around, The Rugby Weekend will host the USA Eagles v New Zealand Maori on Friday Novemebr 4th at Toyota Park, and on Saturday, November 5th, the All Blacks will play Ireland at what will truly be a historic match at Soldier Field. Ireland Rugby team has not played here before, and it is more than rare that two teams play a test match in another country outside of their own, and a match up that hasn't taken place since 2013.