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Sunday 4 December 2016

Ireland and All Blacks fans savour Chicago visit

Published 04/11/2016 | 19:31

Rugby fans have mingled with baseball supporters in Chicago this week
Rugby fans have mingled with baseball supporters in Chicago this week

Ireland fans have flocked to Chicago for their one-off Test match against New Zealand at Soldier Field.

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Latest estimates suggest 5,000 Irish supporters will descend on the Chicago Bears' stadium for Saturday's Test battle with back-to-back world champions New Zealand.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) stands to earn one million euros (£890,000) from the clash, and will also host the All Blacks at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on November 19.

Fans arriving in Chicago on Friday were lapping up the Chicago Cubs' World Series victory parade, and wholeheartedly backing the IRFU's venture to stage a Test match on foreign soil.

"It's a great initiative that hopefully will help grow the game of rugby on this continent as well as in Ireland and probably further afield," said Phil Scott, originally from Ballymena, Northern Ireland but now living in Canada.

Mr Scott emigrated to Canada nearly 30 years ago, but still keeps close tabs on events in his homeland.

He added: "I'm a big fan of Joe Schmidt, I think he's a fantastic coach doing a great job, and Ireland are playing some great rugby.

"There have been changes after the World Cup, but they are building again.

"It's great to have an Ulsterman in Rory Best as captain too, he's had a fine Test career.

"Obviously rugby authorities are trying to grow the game and this is a good way to do it."

Duane Stephenson from Victoria, Canada, will support the All Blacks on Saturday.

The 65-year-old still plays over-40s rugby for the Ebb Tide club, and is relishing the chance to view the All Blacks up close and personal.

"Chicago is awash with celebration at the moment because of the Cubs," said Mr Stephenson.

"This is a great time to be in the city, but also it's fantastic to see the All Blacks here.

"It's bound to inspire more youngsters into the game, hopefully in the US and Canada too."

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