The All Blacks will begin their season-ending 2016 tour with another Test in Chicago, this time against Six Nations champions Ireland.
The teams will meet on November 5 at 60,000-seat stadium Soldier Field, the NFL venue at which New Zealand beat the United States 74-6 in a historic Test in 2014.
One day earlier, the Maori All Blacks will face the United States at Chicago’s Toyota Park as part of an international double-header.
The announcement of the Test completes the All Blacks’ northern tour schedule, which includes a second Test against Ireland in Dublin two weeks later. The other Tests are against Italy in Rome on November 12 and France in Paris on November 26.
The world champions haven’t played Ireland since their nail-biting 24-22 win in Dublin in 2013, highlighted by a last-gasp try. Since then, Ireland’s New Zealand coach Joe Schmidt has steered them to two Six Nations crowns and a quarter-final exit from the Rugby World Cup.
New Zealand Rugby is trying to forge a closer commercial relationship with the United States, which has a fast-growing rugby base.
Chief executive Steve Tew says the Test two years ago was a sold-out success, prompting both organisations to explore the prospect of further Tests.
“We have very fond memories of playing in Chicago in 2014,” Tew said.
“We really appreciated the efforts of the city in rolling out the welcome mat for rugby. We know American fans had a very special experience and we expect a whole new group of fans to enjoy what will be a unique showcase of top class rugby over consecutive days.”
The Maori All Blacks will play their fourth game against the USA Eagles, having last played them in 2013, when they won 29-19 in Philadelphia.
Toyota Park is a 30,000-seat suburban stadium which is home to Major League Soccer club the Chicago Fire.
USA Rugby chief executive Nigel Melville expects the double-header to generate enormous interest.
“The city and its fans have shown the world how passionate they are about the sport, and we think this weekend will again take the game’s popularity to another level.”
ALL BLACKS END OF YEAR TOUR
Nov 5 v Ireland, Soldier Field, Chicago
Nov 12 v Italy, Rome, venue TBC
Nov 19 v Ireland, Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Nov 26 v France, Stade de France, Paris
MAORI ALL BLACKS
Nov 4 v USA, Toyota Park, Chicago