SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia will finish off their preparations for this year’s rugby World Cup with a brief tour of the United States, featuring a one-off test against the Americans in Chicago.
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) announced on Wednesday the test match would be played on Sept. 5 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, where the Eagles also hosted New Zealand’s All Blacks a year ago.
“The lead up and match will be critical for our rugby World Cup preparations,” Australia coach Michael Cheika said in a statement.
”Although we haven’t met on many occasions, there’s a rich history between our two rugby nations, with the Eagles playing their first ever test match against the Wallabies some 40 years ago.
“We know it will be a spirited encounter for that very reason.”
North America is one of rugby’s fastest growth regions. Playing numbers have been steadily increasing in recent years and are forecast to grow even quicker when rugby sevens is introduced to the Olympic program in Rio next year.
Both Canada and the U.S. have been awarded tournaments on next season’s World Sevens series and have begun talks about a possible joint bid to stage the 15-a-side World Cup, in either 2023 or 2027.
“Rugby is spreading across the globe through the hard work of World Rugby and ambitious unions like USA Rugby,” World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset said.
“When the Wallabies take on the Eagles it will be another opportunity to show our wonderful game to thousands of potential new fans and players throughout North America and beyond.”
Australia, the U.S. and Canada have all qualified for this year’s World Cup, taking place in England and Wales from Sept. 18-Oct. 31.
Australia’s first match is against Fiji in Cardiff on Sept. 23, while the Americans start their campaign three days earlier against Samoa and Canada open against Ireland.
Writing by Julian Linden in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien