Soldier Field
The 61,500 Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, plays host to the first of two clashes between Ireland and New Zealand this autumn. Getty Images

Ireland and two-time world champions New Zealand headline the opening weekend of the autumn international schedule at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois on Saturday, 5 November. The clash is the first of two meetings between the countries before the end of 2016, with a second match scheduled for 19 November in Dublin.

Where to watch

Ireland vs New Zealand is live on BT Sport 2 with kick-off at 8pm.


Ireland will be aiming to avenge 111 years of history when they take on world champions New Zealand in Chicago. Joe Schmidt's side will play their first ever international at Soldier Field against an All Blacks side who have won their last 18 matches in a row and are in ominous form heading into the opening match of the autumn series.

Steve Hansen's side have not lost in all 28 meetings with the Irish, escaping defeat in their last clash in 2013 when Ryan Crotty's last minute converted try ensure the two-time Rugby World Cup winners ended 2013 with a 100% record. Ireland will have two opportunities to end over a century of pain, the first coming in relatively unfamiliar ground in Illinois.

Jerome Kaino
Kaino will start at second row for the first time against Ireland. Getty Images

The feeling of unfamiliarity is not exclusively held by Ireland, with New Zealand heading into the test with an untested second row. Injuries to Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, and Luke Romano's compassionate leave means Jerome Kaino will take up an entirely new position from the start which makes the team vulnerable at scrum time.

New Zealand's unbeaten run has not masked the mourning over the retirements of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw, and at least from the floor Beauden Barrett was unable to fill the reliable void of the former during the Rugby Championship. Center partnership George Moala and Crotty also lacks experience, yet the remainder of the team including Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Aaron Smith and captain Kieran Read represents a daunting challenge for Ireland.

The designated home side Ireland are tasked not only with redressing history, but also laying down a marker ahead of the 2017 summer when the British and Irish Lions tour New Zealand, led by Warren Gatland. Several players hoping to stake a claim for that squad are included in a strong Ireland team including fit against Johnny Sexton, half-back partner Conor Murray, Rory Best in the second row and Jamie Heaslip at number eight.

Jamie Heaslip
Heaslip will be among those hoping to impress Lions coach Warren Gatland. Getty Images

But the main task for the Irish will be blowing away the cobwebs after five months since their last international, while New Zealand stormed to the Rugby Championship only last month. Though what is expected to be a largely Irish crowd will be eager for victory, using this clash as a tune-up for the match at the Aviva Stadium in a fortnight might be a far more realistic ambition for Schmidt – with Canada and Australia also to come this autumn.


Ireland: 15. Rob Kearney, 14. Andrew Trimble, 13. Jared Payne, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Simon Zebo, 10. Johnny Sexton, 9. Conor Murray, 8. Jamie Heaslip, 7. Jordi Murphy, 6. CJ Stander, 5. Devin Toner, 4. Donnacha Ryan, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 2. Rory Best (c), 1. Jack McGrath

Replacements: 16. Sean Cronin, 17. Cian Healy, 18. Finlay Bealham, 19. Ultan Dillane, 20. Josh van der Flier, 21. Kieran Marmion, 22. Joey Carbery, 23. Garry Ringrose.

New Zealand: 15. Ben Smith, 14. Waisake Naholo, 13. George Moala, 12. Ryan Crotty, 11. Julian Savea, 10. Beauden Barrett, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Kieran Read (c), 7. Sam Cane, 6. Liam Squire, 5. Jerome Kaino, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Dane Coles, 1. Joe Moody

Steve Hansen
Hansen is aiming to mastermind another win over Ireland. Getty Images

Replacements: 16. Codie Taylor, 17. Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18. Charlie Faumuina, 19. Scott Barrett, 20. Ardie Savea, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Aaron Cruden, 23. Malakai Fekitoa.

What the coaches say:

Steve Hansen: "With Jerome coming in, he's comfortable there, I don't feel that way. I am the kid who grew up idolising him and I still do now. The way he plays, I feed off what he does. I don't feel like I am the senior lock with Jerome. I still look up to him."

"Come game time I know that excitement level will be where it needs to be. Normally it is me and the other locks trying to push the other two senior locks and help them, but this week it was about me having to get my mind right and keep [my emotions] at a level where I could train properly. They're already telling us that they know we are not invincible which is a sure sign that they're confident, we're playing on neutral ground and they get two cracks at us."

Joe Schmidt
Schmidt's side have not played since June but face a testing autumn period. Getty Images

Joe Schmidt: "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't conscious of it. It is difficult forme to comment on. I feel a bit like a Plastic Paddy myself. I do think that if it is not a clear-cut decision you would tend to favour the indigenous player. I do. But I do believe that players want to be as competitive as they can be. And I am charged with the responsibility of trying to help whoever is available for Ireland to be the best team they can be.

"My perception is that there is a couple of people who have been outspoken about it but ... the majority of people want Ireland to be as competitive as they can be. That includes the players. If you spoke to the current team, they would want the best players available.

"The average professional rugby career would be about five years probably? The best players go a lot longer than that but for a player to commit three years to qualify somewhere is a pretty big commitment. At the same time, in our current squad, what number are we talking about? Indigenous players still dominate, massively."