Samu Manoa and other Premiership Americans free to face All Blacks in Chicago
Rugby confirmed on Friday that American players with English clubs will be released for the US Eagles’ game against New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The game, on 1 November, falls outside the autumn international window in which clubs must release players for Test duty. A deal has been struck, however, which will make the likes of Saracens’ Hayden Smith and Chris Wyles, Leicester’s Blaine Scully and Samu Manoa of Northampton available to face the All Blacks. Such players will then not be available for the Eagles’ in-window autumn fixtures against Romania, Tonga and Fiji.
An article published on said players employed in France, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Japan would also be available for the All Blacks game.
Such a deal has long been thought likely. In May, when was confirmed, a Premiership Rugby spokesman to the Guardian that American players would not be released for the game, or that clubs who did release such players would be fined, when they released the Wales and Lions wing George North for a game against Australia last year.
Both the Eagles and the All Blacks are , which is headquartered in New York.
On Friday , the chief executive of Premiership Rugby, said: “We have a very good relationship with USA Rugby and we have responded to their request to ensure all their best players are available to play against New Zealand, on what will be an historic occasion.
“As we help grow the sport in the USA, it is essential to support a match of this quality which has clearly captured the interest of American supporters.”
More than 60,000 tickets have been sold for the game, which will become by some distance the best-attended rugby game in North America. It will also be broadcast on NBC.
Nigel Melville, chief executive of USA Rugby and a former director of rugby at London Wasps and Gloucester, said: “This is a significant milestone in the development of the game in the USA. It is unfortunate that such an historic game could not be played under the Regulation 9 release window.”
Speaking to the USA Rugby website, Melville added: “It’s a case of give and take. The players want to play against New Zealand, which is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any Eagle, but without the clubs’ support they would not be available.
“The current Regulation 9 does not work for North America and ideally this will be changed in the future. Until that happens, we have to be creative and manage our professional players as best we can.
“Our goal every four years is to be increasingly competitive at the Rugby World Cup. In 2015 there is no Regulation 9 release period during the Pacific Nations Cup, when we will need our players to prepare. Having a positive working relationship with the professional clubs is therefore critical to achieving our goals.
“The November window will be a massive opportunity for those players on the cusp of World Cup selection and these are exciting times for our players and coaches.”
The Eagles are – this year they have and Canada and lost to Japan and , both of whom are in their 2015 World Cup pool. An Eagles Select XV, without overseas professionals, is currently competing in in Canada.
The All Blacks are the reigning World Cup and champions, ranked No1. Though they were defeated in their last outing, , they have lost only twice in 44 games since winning the 2011 World Cup at home.
Before travelling to Chicago, they will play their third Bledisloe Cup game of the season on Saturday.