Ireland hoping to end their own hoodoo in Chicago

8:20 PM GMT

CHICAGO — The Cubs may have been waiting 108 years for the World Series but Ireland are looking to end an even longer drought in the same city this weekend when they face the All Blacks at Soldier Field.

Ultan Dillane, the 22-year-old Connacht and Ireland second-row, was in bullish mood talking down any notion of New Zealand having an air of invincibility ahead of this weekend’s Test in Chicago.

Instead Dillane, who has five caps, sees an opportunity for an upset and avenues to exploit within the New Zealand ranks despite the world’s No. 1 side being on an 18-match winning run and having never lost a Test to Ireland since their first meeting in 1905.

“There is evident quality but they are only human at the end of the day,” Dillane said. “They do have weaknesses. We are looking to exploit them.

“They have 18 wins in a row and clearly they have been hyped up as favourites and all that. But there is a lot of pressure on them to maintain that streak. Us going in as underdogs, we see that as an opportunity to upset them. We hope to create a bit of history.

“We don’t think they are invincible. They do have weaknesses. We will try and exploit those.”

There is an air of nervous expectation in Chicago. The Cubs’ 9-3 win over the Indians on Tuesday evening drew the World Series level at 3-3 and with the title-deciding match on Wednesday the city is in a baseball frenzy.

The Cubs’ emblem adorns every bar and if you walk into a café or a restaurant, you will be met by a wealth of Cubs merchandise on the wall and on locals’ backs.

He Got Game! Shooting some hoops in @chicagobulls training facility. #TeamOfUs #shouldertoshoulder

— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 2, 2016

A win would end a 108-year World Series drought but Ireland are looking to settle some of their own personal scores having suffered the most agonising of defeats in the last meeting back in 2013.

Ryan Crotty, the All Blacks centre, was asked about that November day in 2013 where Ireland were at one stage 19-0 up only for the Kiwis to claw their way back with Crotty scoring in extra time to draw the match level and Aaron Cruden then kicking the Test-winning conversion.

“Yeah, since that I’ve pretty much had to apologise to every Irishman I’ve met since that day,” Crotty said on Tuesday with more than a hint of mischief.

Though parallels between this Ireland crop and the 2013 class are far-fetched given seven of that squad have retired — Dillane watched the match at home — there is an urgency about the Irish to get a long-awaited win over New Zealand and what better way to mark it than in some form of a remarkable double with the Cubs.

“It would be cool, wouldn’t it? The city is really excited,” Dillane said. “We went for a stroll this morning. There is some serious support.

“Whatever happens, we’ll try to create that history.

“To play statistically the best team in the world is definitely a huge opportunity and the excitement is 100 per cent there in everyone in the whole squad.”

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