This tie forms part of the big ‘Rugby Weekend’ event in Chicago, and will be played the night before the Ireland-New Zealand game. The last time the USA took on a team from New Zealand, the result was disastrous, with the Eagles losing 74-6 to the All Blacks. The Maori All Blacks, however, are a much different proposition and this game should be much more competitive. For all the talk of the New Zealand national team going on an 18 game winning streak, the Maori All Blacks have actually gone one further, having not lost a game against an international side since losing to England in 2003. That run has included victories against England, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions.
The Maori team has a good mix of exciting talent, although head coach Colin Cooper has opted for relatively few options among the backs. Exciting prospect Leni Apisai – who has captained New Zealand at U20 level, comes in at hooker, and several of the squad will have their eyes on progressing to the national team with a good display against the US. With the All Blacks also playing in Chicago over the weekend, head-coach Stephen Hansen will surely be keeping an eye on this match for possible future call-ups.
The US team has a few surprises as well. Fly-half AJ MacGinty has not been included in the selection, possibly preferring to stay at Sale to stake a claim there to the number 10 jersey. Several of the US Sevens team have been brought in, so an athletic, pace-based style seems to be the tactic of choice for the Eagles on Friday night. This leaves the Maori All Blacks in a vulnerable position; they need to make sure they complete as many tackles as possible to avoid line breaks – something that they failed to do last year against the New Zealand Barbarians. If the US can get their powerful runners going, they could really cause problems for the visitors.