Wednesday 17 October 2018

Joe Schmidt's Ireland in advanced talks for return to Soldier Field in Chicago

Conor Murray celebrates Ireland's victory over New Zealand in 2016
Conor Murray celebrates Ireland's victory over New Zealand in 2016
The Irish Independent understands that talks over the fixture are at an advanced stage, meaning Joe Schmidt's Six Nations champions look set to return to Soldier Field, where they defeated New Zealand in 2016. Photo: Sportsfile

Italy could provide the opposition for Ireland's extra November international with the IRFU lining up a return to Chicago.

The Irish Independent understands that talks over the fixture are at an advanced stage, meaning Joe Schmidt's Six Nations champions look set to return to Soldier Field, where they defeated New Zealand in 2016.

A repeat fixture was not possible due to the All Blacks' plans to spend two weeks in Japan before heading to Europe for their traditional end-of-season tour which includes a Dublin date. The Kiwis face Australia on October 27 and Japan on November 3.

The latter date looks the more likely for Ireland's Chicago clash against Italy, given the official window for international fixtures begins the following week.

Ireland will take on the world champions in Dublin on November 17, while Argentina are also expected to return with a third fixture against a Tier 2 side yet to be confirmed.

A fixture between Ireland and Italy would be attractive to the hosts given the strong connection between the two countries and the Windy City.

Saturday's Grand Slam clash with England is at the forefront of Schmidt's mind and his chief concerns are over the fitness of Peter O'Mahony and Rob Kearney who did not train at Carton House yesterday. Assistant coach Richie Murphy was upbeat on their chances of being selected tomorrow.

No 8 CJ Stander is expecting an English backlash after they lost their last two games.

"They'll be angry with themselves for sure at how they left it out there. It's going to be 23 angry Englishmen for sure," he said. "When you play against England it is another step-up."

Irish Independent

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