VIA USA Rugby- USA Eagles Seamus Kelly and Andrew Suniula – as well as the city of Chicago – welcomed Ryan Crotty and Victor Vito of the New Zealand All Blacks this weekend.
Crotty and Vito traveled to the United States just a week following the All Blacks’ 51-20 win against Australia in the 2014 Investec Rugby Championship. While in Chicago, Crotty and Vito met up with Kelly and Suniula to take in some local rugby, a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field, and the Chicago Bears’ National Football League season-opener at Soldier Field, which will host the historic match between the All Blacks and Eagles Nov. 1.
“I had a lot of fun showing the guys around Chicago,” Suniula said. “I think they enjoyed it and their girls enjoyed it, as well. It’s a city no one really talks about abroad, then once they’re here it’s quite an eye-opener.”
Crotty and Vito began their tour of Chicago Friday, Sept. 5, on the local FOX affiliate’s Good Day Chicago, where they expressed their excitement for the first All Blacks test on American soil since 1980.
All four players took over Choose Chicago’s Twitter account Friday to answer questions from fans around the world. Suniula advised the All Blacks on local cuisine, while Kelly was impressed by the city’s skyline.
“Right away when driving into the city I thought Dark Knight,” Vito tweeted. Chicago was the primary location for the filming of the Batman franchise’s second-highest grossing feature.
While the steel exterior of “Gotham City” caught the eyes of the All Blacks, it was the friendly confines of Wrigley Field and Soldier Field that captured their imaginations. The players and their significant others survived a bit of rain Friday to watch six full innings of the Cubs’ eventual 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The game was suspended in the seventh inning Friday and concluded Saturday.
The southern hemisphere is seeing the end of winter, so the humid, warm weather of Chicago was a positive addition to the visit for Crotty and Vito. Come November, however, it might be a less-than-warm welcome for the All Blacks.
“It was good the entire weekend, weather-wise, apart from rain Friday,” Suniula said. “I think the city really turned it on for these guys.”
The Chicago Griffins and Metropolis treated the players to a Division I matchup at Humboldt Park, with the visitors claiming a 48-31 victory against Suniula’s former domestic club.
The Eagles and All Blacks took to the pitch at Soldier Field Sunday not as competitors, but spectators as the Bears began their 2014 season against the Buffalo Bills. The Bears fell, 23-20, in an exciting game that featured the rugby players on the sideline.
“The game was awesome,” Suniula said. “We had great seats. Bears games are always fun, and it was good to go down on the pitch and see it from that side of things.”
While sporting new BLK shirts, the Eagles garnered attention for the upcoming match that is expected to sell out the 61,500-seat stadium.
“This city is sports-mad,” Suniula said. “There’s a buzz in the air about the game from rugby fans and people wanting to know more about rugby. I think once they get behind it they’re going to go crazy, especially since it looks like it’s going to be sold out. It’s going to be a great event for everyone, especially the fans coming from overseas.”
Tickets still remain for the historic test, which will be broadcast live nationally on NBC Nov. 1. Sign up for additional updates on the event and find Chicago hotel deals on usavallblacks.com. Join the conversation on social media using the official hashtag, #USAvAllBlacks.