USA Rugby and TLA Worldwide (“TLA”), along with host city partners Chicago Sports Commission (CSC) and Soldier Field, today announced that world class international rugby will again return to Soldier Field in Chicago for the latest edition of The Rugby Weekend. The iconic NFL stadium will play host to three captivating international rugby matches over the course of one day, featuring the USA Rugby Men’s and Women’s Eagles taking on New Zealand’s inspiring Maori All Blacks and the reigning Women’s Rugby World Cup champion Black Ferns. Six Nations Champions Ireland return to Chicago to take on Six Nations rivals Italy.
All matches will take place at Soldier Field on Saturday November 3, with USA Women’s Eagles opening the match line-up against the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup Champion Black Ferns, followed by Ireland against Italy and finally USA Men’s Eagles meet the Maori All Blacks. In a day that is set to be a celebration of USA Rugby and the sport’s increasing participation across the country, host city partners CSC and Soldier Field look forward to the landmark event.
“We are excited to welcome back premier rugby to the great city of Chicago this fall. Rugby has established a home at Soldier Field and Chicago due to the incredible success of the past three marquee matches. The Chicago Park District has a thriving rugby program and it’s marquee events like this that provide the support for our youth to participate in the numerous programs we offer throughout Chicagoland,“ said General Superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District, Michael Kelly.
“Chicago is a world-class sports city, and rugby has become a staple on our major events calendar,” said Executive Director of the Chicago Sports Commission, Kara Bachman.
“We’re thrilled to welcome back Ireland, the Maori All Blacks and USA Rugby, and proud to host Italy and the first women’s international test match at Soldier Field”, Kara Bachman added.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed his excitement about the return of The Rugby Weekend to Chicago.
“Chicago is an unparalleled sports town with an unmatched track record of hosting international sporting events,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“Fans from around the world will be inspired by Chicago’s cultural attractions, remarkable restaurants and love of rugby”, Mayor Rahm Emanuel added.
The last time Ireland came to Chicago, it was for The Rugby Weekend 2016, which produced one of the greatest rugby moments in history. Ireland claimed their first win over the New Zealand All Blacks in 111 years in front of a crowd of over 62,000 fans at Soldier Field.
The Rugby Weekend 2018 will see Ireland return to the site of their historic victory, only this time they arrive as reigning 2018 Six Nations Champions after completing the Grand Slam reaching No.2 in World Rugby’s World Rankings. Their opponents are a skilful and physical Italian National Team, commonly known as the Azzurri, coached by the highly respected former Ireland international Conor O’Shea.
“USA Rugby is thrilled to help host and participate in yet another iconic international rugby event coming off the heels of the much-anticipated Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco this July. The Rugby Weekend provides an incredible sports fan experience in one of the greatest venues and sports towns in the world. We are especially excited to open the November tripleheader with a historic showcase of some of the best women’s rugby in the world,” said former USA Rugby National Team Player and Rugby International Marketing CEO, Pam Kosanke.
The USA Men’s Eagles will again take on the popular Maori All Blacks after both sides clashed during The Rugby Weekend 2016 in front of over 18,000 fans at Toyota Park. The squad has started 2018 in spectacular fashion going undefeated to win the Americas Rugby Championship (ARC) becoming the first nation in the tournament’s history to win the Grand Slam, and look to carry this momentum into The Rugby Weekend.
The USA Women’s Eagles will be seeking revenge against the Black Ferns, a team that defeated them in 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, before the Black Ferns were eventually crowned World Cup winners. The occasion will also mark the Black Ferns first appearance on North American soil, a historic moment for the team and one that further reinforces the growing interest and participation in women’s rugby worldwide.
“This is going to be a very special weekend for rugby and for New Zealand. Our teams, sponsors and supporters have enjoyed wonderful experiences with previous fixtures featuring the All Blacks and Maori All Blacks, so we are excited to be able to bring our Women’s Rugby World Cup champions, the Black Ferns, to be part of such a wonderful spectacle of rugby. These matches will be a fantastic way to kick off end of year campaigns for both teams,” said New Zealand Rugby’s Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass.
Ireland returns to Chicago as fan favorites after their victory in 2016 and will this year arrive with the added title of Six Nations Champions. The team is looking forward to playing once again in front of a sea of a green after witnessing the number of passionate Irish fans that came out to support their country at Soldier Field two years ago.
“Irish Rugby is delighted to be returning to Chicago. In 2016 the Ireland team experienced tremendous support and made history in a week that also witnessed the Cubs celebrating their own piece of history on the streets of Chicago. We are looking forward to an exciting match against Italy who are a well-coached and dangerous team,” said IRFU Director of Commercial & Marketing, Padraig Power.
The Azzurri have gone from strength to strength in recent years, rapidly becoming one of the most dangerous teams in Europe, and are set to provide tough opposition for Ireland.
“To keep on developing the FIR brand and Italian rugby in general across the world is one of our main commitments, as well as establishing our National Team among the most competitive on the international stage. We’re working incredibly hard to convert great performances into victories and to do so we are working more and more closely with our two PRO14 franchises, the RWC 2019 being the main medium-term goal in front of us. In order to improve, there is no better way than playing the best in the world and adding Ireland to our 2018 fall’s schedule is consistent with both giving the team more chances to compete at the highest possible level as well as developing Italian rugby and the game in general across a great market like the USA”, said FIR Commercial Director, Carlo Checchinato.
TLA Worldwide’ s Group Chief Executive Officer, Michael Principe, said “We at TLA Worldwide are excited to once again be a part of this fantastic showcase of rugby in Chicago. We take great pride in the success of The Rugby Weekends and are looking forward to working closely with USA Rugby, IRFU, FIR, NZRU and the Chicago Sports Commission to bring world class rugby matches to this great city and provide a truly memorable experience for all fans.”