The Māori All Blacks team to play the first game of their tour this month was announced today, with all 10 new caps named in the 23-man side.
Chicago is the third biggest city in America, but this week will be huge for these Māori All Blacks players who prepare for their first test this weekend held in just two days time.
The starting line-up was named which sees all 10 new caps take the field for the first time.
“It’s the best of what we have available to us,” says coach Clayton McMillan, “So a lot of the guys have played at Super Rugby level, and Mitre 10 cup at home, we’re really happy with the squad we’ve got the guys that are going to be joining us post USA game but having said that we’re happy with the team we've got.”
From the newer players to the experienced, Akira Ioane will start in the Number 8 jersey.
This will be the former All Black players 9th match with the Māori side but he says he’s not worried about making the All Blacks again as he’s here to get on with his job.
“You know if I play well I guess throughout the year it should come,” says Ioane, “Bu, for now, I’m here and I’m worried about the Māori’s so if I play well here we’ll see what happens in the future, just worried about this game and our tour.”
Soldier Field stadium seats more than 61,000 players and there’s the hope that supporters from both America and NZ will come out to watch the Māori All Blacks, as well as the Black Ferns who will take on the Women's USA team on the same day. According to recent ticket sale,s 30,000 tickets have been sold to this event, with just two days to go.
“It’s a pretty impressive stadium to be honest,” says captain of the Māori All Blacks Ash Dixon, “When that wind picks up it’s pretty cold so I must wear a jacket, besides that it’s an awesome feeling being out there, it will be cool to pack it out and get some really passionate fans out there to fill it up and it will lift the boys up a bit, so whatever happens this weekend with the crowd we can go full swing and we can go out there and have an entertaining game.”
The Māori All Blacks look to repeat their winning performance against the USA Eagles team held again in Chicago two years ago. But after a shocking loss to the Lions last season they know they can’t take anything for granted.