The plan by Ireland’s rugby team to stay at the five-star Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago erupted in a political brawl in the Emerald Isle.
Ireland plays the world champion New Zealand All Blacks at Soldier Field on Saturday, November 5, and booked the accommodation for its 34-man squad and support staff; however, an Irish politician sees this as an “endorsement” of Donald Trump and wants team management to reconsider the choice.
Brid Smith, People-Before-Profit TD in Ireland’s lower house of parliament, told Independent.ie: “If the Irish rugby team really want to keep sports and politics separately they shouldn’t stay at the Donald Trump hotel in the middle of a presidential election.
“I believe that Trump could certainly use this as an endorsement as there is a huge amount of people in the US with Irish backgrounds.
“I’m sure he’s perfectly aware that he needs the Irish diaspora vote and will be looking to chase it. I wouldn’t put it past him to use the team’s stay to his advantage. This is why I don’t think they should stay there.”
The Ireland-All Blacks game kicks off three days before the presidential election in front of an expected sell-out crowd of U.S. and visiting rugby fans.
For its part, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) sees no problem with the choice of accommodation. It says it is simply a matter of accepting what is available and will not be backing down.
In a statement, the IRFU said the hotel was chosen at the start of this year, months before Donald Trump became the official Republican candidate.
Chicago also hosts a large packaging expo during the same weekend as the Ireland-New Zealand match so the Irish team saw few options, they say.
“The accommodation requirements of the team are purely based on the facilities that are available and if they match the requirements, that’s simply it.”
Although rugby is still a long way from the sports mainstream in the U.S., the All Blacks still attract plenty of attention on their own. They were last in the U.S. in 2014 and drew the following response:
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 1, 2014
Politics aside, the game promises to be a tough one for the Irish. Coach Joe Schmidt has selected six uncapped players on his roster to take on a rampant New Zealand All Black team that remains unbeaten in its last 18 outings against tier-one opponents.
History is also on the side of the Kiwis.
The two teams first met in 1905, with New Zealand winning 15–0 at Lansdowne Road, Dublin. A total of 28 Test matches have been contested, with the All Blacks winning 27 of them. The remaining match resulted in a draw.