AB’s captain Sam Whitelock returns, as US Rugby bid for World Cup(s)

AB's captain Sam Whitelock returns, as US Rugby bid for World Cup(s)
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With the return of missing New Zealand rugby players who were absent from The Rugby Championship-winning schedule, news that previous All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock had been ‘reappointed’ as tour leader came as little surprise.

That is as he resumes his senior position as skipper – in name mostly – as Ardie Savea had performed exceptionally as stand-in leader, with the absence of Whitelock and prior skip, Sam Cane. They regrouped with Ian Foster’s northern tour party, as well as Aaron Smith and bolter, Josh Lord.

No eyebrows were raised on his reappointment though. His position and record in Super Rugby and International rugby would see him lead any national side. What was newsworthy was that US Rugby had officially launched multiple Rugby World Cup bids. Significant, as the Tier Two country is the first bidding nation to ambitiously hope to run both a men’s and a women’s World Cup(s) tournament back-to-back. It could be either 2027 [men’s] followed by 2029 [women’s] or, 2027 followed by 2031.

And while in the States ‘everything is bigger and bolder’ the upcoming Test between the USA Eagles and the All Blacks is making the headlines across the Continent. Expect a stadium full to capacity on Saturday which shows how the return of the highly regarded All Blacks team can generate ‘bums on seats’ as well as much-needed revenue for each nation that they tour in.

AB’s captain Sam Whitelock returns, as US Rugby bid for World Cup(s)

In Sam we trust‘ should have been the notes for the interview that All Blacks (AB’s) assistant coach John Plumtree gave earlier this week. He reaffirmed the senior player’s place at the head of the table (when it comes to on-field commitments that is).

Modern rugby is now a number of group decisions, so nominating your skipper is a figurehead role, as much as in the person put in front of the haka. The team has a senior leadership group, with Ardie Savea a key member, as well as many others on tour. Plumtree remarked on the re-entry of Whitelock. “Ardie had done a great job leading the side in Australia and wrapping up the Fortinet Rugby Championship. His style of leadership was fantastic, but it’s also great to have Sam come in with his experience.

“We think it’s good for the team now that Sam takes over,” he said.

Returning to the starting lineout without haste, Whitelock will again direct the lineout and command the interaction with the match official. Beside him will be Richie Mo’unga as the key playmaker, alongside another senior figure, in Damian McKenzie.

Look at the best team sports, and even the greats like Tom Brady or Lionel Messi, they each have senior men they rely on for input and support. In the All Blacks tour party, that includes Joe Moody, Beauden Barrett (on the reserves bench Saturday), and locking partner Brodie Retallick. All Tier One nations have the same ethos; a group that can all make decisions that are best for the team. Returning All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock will certainly always do his best for the team and use his senior players to empower the team.

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Head coach Ian Foster reiterated the side’s goals in this test; which is being played outside the International Autumn test window. “In many ways, new combinations, and time off, there are plenty of excuses for a bit of rust, so I guess we expect a little bit of a settling in period, but by the end of the game we need to make sure we’re nailing our performance,” he said on AllBlacks.com.

US Rugby bid for World Cup(s) for 2027/29

This is the first time a nation has bid on both the Men’s and Women’s Rugby World Cups together and if the bid is successful, will mark the first time a men’s Rugby World Cup has been held in North or South America.

“This is a proud moment as we introduce our vision for a Rugby World Cup on American soil,” said USA Rugby World Cup bid chair Jim Brown. “After working on this for a year now, we are confident in the strength of this bid, the support around us, the cities and stadiums interested in hosting, our country’s top-level infrastructure for large-scale sports events, and the opportunity the U.S. population of sports fans presents for rugby’s growth, both domestically and globally.”

The team behind the bid has been hard at work since the United States announced it had been formally accepted as a bid candidate in June of 2021 following a robust and successful feasibility study. The strength of the men’s game has been underlined with the success of Major League Rugby expansion, as well as the women’s game exploding in popularity and the highly-rated US women’s rugby sevens side.

A bold statement for the game’s global ambition, this news comes as the United States’ rugby community gathers in Washington, D.C. ahead of the USA Eagles match with the New Zealand All Blacks in the inaugural 1874 Cup on Saturday, Oct. 23 at FedEx Field.

Odds stacked against Eagles victory but ‘Rugby celebrated’

With odds of 151-1 of a USA Eagles victory, the likelihood of a highly contested match is debateable. Not only are the three-time World Champions the most dominant team in rugby history, but they will also want to set certain standards for their Northern Tour. This USA group of 23 players may not have the power to deflect that force.

Paying $14 to score first, which is a remote possibility at best, the USA Rugby side will use this match for more purposes than to just aim for victory. Development is still that nation’s key focus. Missing key players (as this match is outside

Even though the game has been played since 1874, it is a sport played mainly participated in on the nation’s East Coast – hence the fact the last two Internationals featuring New Zealand, were played in Chicago. Run-on captain Sam Whitelock did not play in those matches, so for him, it will be an experience as it will be for many of the young players selected to play the USA Eagles.

Their bid to host the World Cup will be the same boost that Soccer [Football] enjoyed in the 1990s. If that can happen, then the sport will grow exponentially. And that is good for World Rugby naturally.

Celebrating rugby is first and foremost for this fixture. Fans will fill Fed Ex Field to the rafters and enjoy the spectacle of rugby union being played on such a pristine field. The host of many International football clashes, the Washington DC crowd will file in to watch the All Blacks machine in full flight. The widespread marketing will draw in a large television audience on NBC Sports Gold, for both the sporting value as well as the entertainment factor.

Expect pre-game entertainment to be ‘next level’. A curtain-raiser game between Army and Navy is the perfect build-up on the ground, yet the festivities usually begin in the car park. Tailgate parties and BBQs are enjoyed in similar vein to those held at Twickenham and other rugby venues across the globe. Making a day of it is how American sports fans celebrate their NFL games, so this Saturday, the All Blacks will look to build their brand and give the sport more exposure in a country that has high hopes of hosting a men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups in the future.

United States v New Zealand – Saturday, October 23. Washington D.C

 

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