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Ireland still hold Chicago hope for All Blacks meeting

By Cian Tracey

Ireland are still confident of taking on the All Blacks in Chicago next year despite releasing a November 2016 fixture list without the game on the schedule.

The IRFU yesterday confirmed expected Dublin dates with Australia and the world champions but the widely expected opportunity to meet Steve Hansen’s men in Chicago has not yet been finalised.

That initial fixture is widely believed to have been pencilled in for Soldier Field on November 5, with the Kiwis due to visit Dublin two weeks later before Australia round off the schedule of four matches.

Joe Schmidt’s men will also take on a yet to be named tier two nation in between their meetings with the All Blacks, who have never lost to Ireland.

The Windy City has hosted two rugby internationals in recent years, with New Zealand and Australia taking on the United States at the home of the Chicago Bears in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The American date has been flagged for a number of months as the world champions look to exploit their huge commercial appeal in the untapped market, while also bridging their marathon journey to Europe for their annual tour.

It also fits into head coach Joe Schmidt’s desire to face top-level opposition as frequently as possible as he looks to bridge the gap between his side and the world’s best.

The IRFU has also scheduled a November series for their women’s team, the Six Nations champions.

Ireland, who played their first Autumn International in November in England, will host the return in Dublin on the weekend of the 12th/13th before taking on Canada the following weekend.

Despite yesterday’s raft of announcements, nearly all venues, exact dates and timings remain, for some unexplained reason, unconfirmed.

“We again have a very attractive series to look forward to in 2016,” said IRFU chief executive Philip Browne.

“New Zealand return to Ireland for the first time since that incredible game in 2013 and Australia have shown that they are one of the most exciting and effective teams in world rugby after winning the Rugby Championship and finishing runner-up at the Rugby World Cup in 2015.”

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