Ireland to make stateside return to face USA in New Jersey

The fixture comes as talk continues of a Pro12 expansion into North America

Ireland take on USA Eagles at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas in July 2013. Photo: Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Ireland take on USA Eagles at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas in July 2013. Photo: Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

 

Amidst reports of Pro12 plans to place teams in the US and Canada, it has been confirmed that Ireland will play the USA in New Jersey on June 10th.

The Test will be played at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, which last March staged a Premiership game between Saracens and London Irish. Ireland have fond memories of playing in the States after their historic victory over New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago in November.

Ireland will then travel to Japan to face the Cherry Blossoms in two Tests on June 17th and 24th with venues yet to be confirmed.

“It is great to be returning to the US,” said Philip Browne, chief executive of the IRFU, in a statement. “The team received a fantastic reception in Chicago.”

Intriguingly, in light of the Pro12’s reported plans to create a two-division Guinness Atlantic Rugby Championship, Browne added: “There are a lot of Ireland rugby fans on the east coast of America and we hope that they will again come out in numbers to support the team this summer.”

Pro12 plans for expansion in the US reportedly centre on Houston, in the south-west, with Toronto in Canada earmarked for an east-coast presence. According to a report in the Scotsman newspaper Martin Anayi, chief executive of the Pro12, was in Houston earlier this month, on the weekend the Super Bowl was held in the city.

Interest remains, however, in placing a team on the US east coast, potentially in New York or Boston. The Scotsman also reported “talk” of Harlequins, who have invested in USA Rugby and most recently sent a delegation to do coaching work in California, being interested in being involved.

A second Premiership game was due to be played in New Jersey this year, only for London Irish’s relegation to complicate the issue. No announcement has yet been made by Premiership Rugby.

Dan Payne, chief executive of USA Rugby, spoke to the development value of the June Test match when he said: “We are very honored to be hosting Ireland. The value they provided to rugby history throughout the world and toward the growth and awareness of the game in our country this past November in Chicago was phenomenal.

“This match will not only give our men a world class opponent … but they’re also clearly a fan favourite in the United States. With 35 million Americans claiming Irish American heritage in our country, this match will be a strong fit on all levels.”

Organisers will hope to sell-out the Red Bull Arena, which has a capacity of 25,189 and which saw an official attendance of 14,811 when Irish played Saracens.

In November the Eagles attracted a crowd of 18,007 to another Major League Soccer stadium, Toyota Park in Chicago, for a 54-7 defeat by the Maori All Blacks. That game was the same weekend as Ireland’s 40-29 defeat of New Zealand in front of 62,300 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Bears.

Ireland’s Billy Holland, Donnacha Ryan, Simon Zebo, Conor Murray and CJ Stander celebrate beating New Zealand in Chicago last year. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ireland’s Billy Holland, Donnacha Ryan, Simon Zebo, Conor Murray and CJ Stander celebrate beating New Zealand in Chicago last year. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The June game, under the banner of the Emirates Airlines Summer Series, will be promoted by The Legacy Agency, a New York-based company which promoted Irish v Saracens and Ireland v New Zealand.

The Eagles’ summer fixtures also include a game against Georgia, the power of the European game outside the Six Nations, and two matches with Canada with qualification for the 2019 World Cup in Japan the prize.

The Ireland game will be played in the World Rugby window for player release from professional clubs, meaning USA coach John Mitchell should be able to select from strength.

Ireland, who lost their first game of the 2017 Six Nations 27-22 to Scotland before beating Italy 63-10, will be without any players selected to tour New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions. The Lions will play the Crusaders in Christchurch on the day of the Eagles game in Jersey.

Four years ago, when the Lions were in Australia, Ireland beat the USA 15-12 in Houston. In recent years the Eagles’ summer Tests against tier-one nations have been played in the west. In 2016, Italy won 24-20 in San Jose, California.

The 2013 result was the closest the Eagles have got to the Irish in eight attempts since their first meeting in 1994. Mitchell’s team are currently midway through the Americas Rugby Championship, in which they have beaten Uruguay (29-23), Brazil (51-3) and Canada (51-34). In South America, they will face an Argentina XV and Chile.

(Guardian service)

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