What channel, what time and what are the teams? - Everything you need to know about Ireland vs All Blacks in Chicago
Published 05/11/2016 | 11:58
It is hard to believe that Ireland haven't taken on the mighty All Blacks since the haunting last second loss in 2013 during the infancy of Joe Schmidt's tenure.
The Kiwi was only overseeing his third match in charge when Ireland let a 19-0 lead slip - and with it, a historic first ever win over New Zealand - as Steve Hansen's men put the seal on a magnificent 100% record in 2013.
Both teams have changed significantly since then - Ireland have lost their two iconic leaders in Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell while the All Blacks have somehow continued on their remarkable winning run despite the retirement of the lauded quartet of Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith.
Still, tonight's clash at Soldier Field in Chicago promises to be an electric occasion in a city that is still processing that their most popular basbeall team, the Chicago Cubs, ended a 108-year World Series drought that makes Mayo's famine seem like waiting for a main course at a busy restaurant.
It is Ireland's first game of the autumn series, and here is everything you need to know about what should be a riveting encounter.
New Zealand are currently holding an unprecedented 18 game win streak, unmatched by any tier one nation. They romped through the Rugby Championship, winning each fixture with a bonus point, and amazingly, were able to turn a 12-9 half time deficit in South Africa into a 57-15 win after NINE unanswered second half tries.
Ireland have gone through a trying period since their injury-ravaged side were upset by Argentina at the World Cup. A disappointing Six Nations campaign, which saw Ireland draw with Wales before losing to a poor French side and Eddie Jones' resurgent England, ended on a high note with commanding wins over Scotland and Italy.
That was just a warm-up for the tour of South Africa, with Ireland's 14-man victory in the first test ranking among the greatest in the nation's history. Despite losing the subsequent two matches, and the overall series, hopes are high that Schmidt's side can give a good account of themselves against the back-to-back World Cup winners.
Where is it on?
The aforementioned Soldier Field in Chicago, home of NFL team the Chicago Bears, will host tonight's game.
What time does the match kick off at?
Thankfully, fans don't need to stay up 'til all hours to enjoy the stateside clash like they do for Conor McGregor's American UFC bouts. The game will get underway at 8pm Irish time.
What channel will the game be on?
Eir Sport have the rights to tonight's game, meaning that Virgin customers will have to embark on a journey to a public house or a hospitable friend to take in the fixture, unless they have a wifi connection and a penchant for illegally streaming sporting events. The Sunday Independent's Neil Francis will join Gordon D'Arcy and Pat Lam for the analysis, which could be very enjoyable and insightful. Coverage starts on Eir Sport 1 on 7pm before switching to Eir Sport 2 at 8pm.
What are the teams?
The absent Sean O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony aside, Ireland go into this game at relatively full strength. Unfortunately, so do the All Blacks.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Garry Ringrose
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 George Moala, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Jerome Kaino, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa
What are the odds?
Ireland are a mammoth 10/1, while the All Blacks are 1/22. The draw is 28/1 and Ireland are a whopping 24 point underdogs.
Do Ireland have a chance?
Will they beat the All Blacks for the first time?
So, what will happen then?
The All Blacks only failed to cover a 24-point spread once in the Rugby Championship and only three times in ten matches in 2016. But Wales were able to stick reasonably close to the All Blacks in two of their three summer tests and Ireland look to be in a good place. Ireland to lose but to perform well and cover the spread.