CHICAGO, IL – Looking ahead to this weekend, the American rugby force can count on one thing: there are going to be a lot of black tops swarming Chicago. With the top side in the world traveling to the Midwest to take on another heavyweight contender in the Irish, USA supporters have a buffet of Class A rugby-viewing ahead of them. With the USA Eagles set to match up against the Maori All Blacks on Friday night and the New Zealand All Blacks slated to take on the Irish Saturday afternoon, Chicago is going to be buzzing.
Friday evening at Toyota Park, the USA Eagles will take on the Maori All Blacks at 7 pm, CST. This showing will be one of great anticipation, and hopefully retribution, for the USA hopefuls after falling short in the Americas Pacific Challenge last month. The squad for the APC was mainly comprised of young prospects that had the opportunity to showcase their skills highlighted by either strong PRO Rugby or their domestic club seasons. New Zealand born Eagles coach, John Mitchell seems to be working on a recipe to develop America’s talent pool, with sights set on the 2019 Rugby World Cup. His faith in young talent with the average age of the team being 26 goes to prove that the US is beginning to develop their athletes to compete at test level rugby.
The Maori All Blacks are made up of athletes representing New Zealand with the prerequisite of selection being that the player must possess Maori genealogy. The Maori genealogy descended from Polynesian voyages settling into NZ territories where they then developed their own language, culture, and lifestyle. Today, the Maori population can be seen spread amongst the world, sharing their rich culture of family and pride, while balancing their warrior roots with steadfast humility and respect.
The Eagles opponent at Toyota Park on Friday night will be a foe of brilliant capability and experience. With the majority of those selected to play the USA side, there are several of whom who will be coming off highly successful Mitre 10 Cup campaigns; New Zealand’s highest level of domestic rugby competition. With many current and past NZ All Blacks tracing roots back to their Maori All Blacks selections, we are sure to see some shining lights that will be gracing YouTube highlight videos in years to come.
With the autumn international window upon us, I would like to take a look and reflect on the year of 2016 for USA Rugby and shine a light on the positives as we look into a hopeful autumn and 2017 campaign. 2016 brought us the inaugural season of PRO Rugby, which is believed by many to be incredibly successful; I, myself, being one of those believers. The PRO Rugby season was a brilliant opportunity for domestic players to get a taste of what professional athletics encompasses and allowed for better competition and coaching on a daily basis. In my opinion, for the US to be successful in 2019, PRO Rugby must flourish and receive support from the domestic and international rugby community.
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